Secretary-General António Guterres and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sign the Black Sea Grain Initiative deal in Istanbul.
Istanbul: UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the “unprecedented agreement” on the resumption of Ukrainian grain supplies via the Black Sea amid the ongoing war is “a beacon of hope” in a desperately needy world.
The UN Secretary-General spoke at the Black Sea grain export deal in Istanbul, Türkiye, at the signing ceremony on Friday.
The UN plan will also pave the way for Russian grain and fertilizer to reach global markets, will help to stabilize spiraling food prices internationally, and save millions from possible famine.
Ukrainian and Russian Ministers signed the Black Sea Grain Initiative, facing each other at opposite ends of the table. At the same time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Secretary-General sat in the center.
“Now, there is a beacon on the Black Sea,” Guterres said, speaking before the signing.
The UN Secretary-General thanked President Erdogan and his government for their help, which led to the agreement.
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He praised the Russian and Ukrainian officials for putting aside their differences in the shared interest of humankind.
“The question has not been what was good for the individual sides,” he said. “The focus was on what matters most for the world. And there should be no doubt – this agreement is for the world.”
According to FAO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Ukraine is among the world’s top grain exporters, supplying more than 45 million tonnes each year to the global food market.
The Russian incursion began on 24 February and has flared record food and fuel prices and supply chain issues, with millions of tonnes of grain stocks stuck in silos.
In addition to stabilizing international food prices, the deal “will bring relief to developing countries on the verge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine,” said Guterres.
“Since the war began, I have highlighted that there is no answer to the global food crisis without ensuring complete global access to Ukraine’s food products and Russian food and fertilizer.”
The initiative explicitly allows significant quantities of commercial food exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea – Chernomorsk, Yuzhny, and Odesa.
The UN Secretary-General also announced the establishment of a Joint Coordination Centre to monitor implementation.
Guterres acknowledged the weeks of around-the-clock negotiations that led to the landmark agreement.
In April, the Secretary-General had met Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to propose a plan. “We have been working every day since,” he said.
Two separate UN Task Forces worked in parallel on the talks. A team led by UN humanitarian affairs chief Martin Griffiths focused on the shipment of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.
Meanwhile, the second worked on facilitating access to Russian food and fertilizers. UNCTAD’s Rebecca Grynspan, Secretary-General of the UN trade and development body, headed the second team.
Guterres pledged the UN’s total commitment to the lack Sea agreement and has urged all sides to respect the same.
“It is an unprecedented agreement between two parties engaged in a bloody conflict. But that conflict continues,” Guterres said, noting that people are dying daily as the fighting rages.
“The Black Sea beacon of hope shines bright today, thanks to the collective efforts of so many. In these turbulent and most trying times for the region and the world, let this beacon guide all towards easing human suffering and securing peace.”