United Nations — Ukraine and Russia signed an agreement Friday morning in Turkey pledging to allow millions of tons of vital grain supplies to be shipped from Ukraine’s long-blockaded southern ports. Russia has blockaded Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since its large-scale invasion of the country on February 24, prompting accusations from the United States and Europe that President Vladimir Putin has weaponized food.
Russian food and fertilizer, which the Putin regime says it has been unable to ship due to sanctions against its country imposed by the Ukraine war, can also be exported as part of the deal, which was jointly negotiated and signed by the Turkish government. and the United Nations.
Although the agreement signed on Friday at Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace does not address the ongoing war in Ukraine, it is hoped it could ease theincreasing supply and helping to alleviate the spiraling costs of basic products around the world.
The deal calls for the establishment of secure shipping corridors for the grain to pass through the heavily mined waters of the Black Sea. It includes commitments from both Russia and Ukraine not to attack any ships that have been identified as part of the initiative passing through shipping lanes, and to allow Turkey to inspect the ships.
One sticking point that had delayed a deal for weeks of intense negotiations was which country would actually get the grain out of Ukraine’s ports. Under the deal, Ukraine will operate the grain freighters part of the way, until they reach international waters, and then other countries will direct the exports to Istanbul for onward shipment elsewhere.
At a pre-signing briefing on Friday morning, two senior UN officials explained the basics of the deal, saying that one of the first steps after it was signed would be for the UN and Turkey to deploy monitors at the ports of Ukraine, “to be clear about what is protected, and what is provided under this agreement”
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week that “some countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia typically got as much as 75 percent of its wheat from Russia and the Ukraine,” before Russia launched its war, citing data from the World Bank.
Ukraine in particular, he said, “was the breadbasket for the developing world.”
“We estimate that more than 20 million tons of grain is stuck in silos and ships, at risk of rotting” in and around Ukrainian ports, Thomas-Greenfield said. “As long as Putin continues his war in Ukraine, millions and millions of people around the world will not know when or where they will get their next meal.”
CBS News has seen firsthand both the lockdown and its impact on the world’s hungriest people. Correspondent Chris Livesaythis summer while preparing for a possible Russian assault, and correspondent Debora Patta where a desperate woman said she couldn’t afford to eat and had heard that the World Food Program “stopped aid because white people are at war.”
Stagnant grain supplies have exacerbated the food crisis in South Sudan, helping the cost of basic goods skyrocket by almost 100% in the country. WFP’s acting director in South Sudan, Adeyinka Badejo, told Patta that the organization had to suspend aid to almost 2 million people in the country due to rising fuel and food costs attributed largely to the war in Ukraine.
Russia denies blocking grain shipments from Ukraine’s ports and accuses the country of stopping shipping traffic by mining its own waters. When Livesay visited Odessa, he reported that coastal waters were riddled with both Ukrainian and Russian sea mines, and Ukraine acknowledged extracting its waters to prevent Russian attacks from the sea. Russia also alleges that US and European Union sanctions prevent the shipment of Russian food and fertilizer, exacerbating the food crisis.
At the first round of talks in mid-July in Istanbul, the Russian Foreign Ministry said no deal would be possible without guarantees that it would be able to control the ships to prevent any attempts to smuggle weapons into Ukraine. That point is addressed in the agreement by establishing a “control center” in Istanbul, to manage exports.
The United States and the European Union, which are not party to the deal, have said the sanctions they imposed on Russia over the war do not restrict Russia’s sale of food or fertilizer. After the first round of talks, the US and EU wrote to shipping and insurance companies to emphasize that export-related sales of Russian food and fertilizer would not violate sanctions.
While the deal signed in Turkey brought relief to many at the UN, Biden administration officials have warned that its implementation will be difficult and raised concerns about whether Russia will follow through on its commitments.
“What we are focusing on now is holding Russia accountable for implementing this deal and allowing Ukrainian grain to reach world markets,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday.
Ukraine also has concerns.
“The Ukrainian delegation supports only those decisions that ensure the security of Ukraine, in particular the regions near the ports; security issues are the most difficult aspects,” Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya told CBS News.
UN expert Stephen Schlesinger of the Century Foundation praised the secretary-general for pushing to secure the grain deal, but called it “a sideshow” and stressed that “it will not end the war.”
However, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the secretary-general, told reporters Thursday that the deal would at least bring hope that “we can potentially save hundreds of thousands, potentially millions of people from rising food prices.” out of his reach.” “