Talks between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations held in Istanbul Wednesday resulted in the parties agreeing to form “a Joint Coordination Centre under the UN auspices” to ensure that Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea can be secured, according to Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian President’s office.
The center will be located in Istanbul and the task will be to carry out “general monitoring and coordination of safe navigation in the Black Sea,” Yermak said Wednesday.
Some context: More than 20 million tons of grain remain stuck in Ukraine due to Russia’s blockade of Black Sea ports, according to Ukrainian officials.
Before the war, wheat supplies from Russia and Ukraine accounted for almost 30% of global trade, and Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn and the fifth-largest exporter of wheat, according to the US State Department. The UN World Food Program — which helps combat global food insecurity — buys about half of its wheat from Ukraine each year and has warned of dire consequences if Ukrainian ports are not opened up.
About 80% of Ukraine’s grain exports were shipped from the country’s Black Sea ports before Russia’s invasion.
With those routes blocked, Ukraine hopes to speed up grain exports through reopened Danube River routes, made possible after Ukrainian troops recaptured Snake Island in June.
A line of barges waiting to sail up the Danube River and load up on grain at one of Ukraine’s river ports will take several weeks to clear, deputy minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Taras Vysotsky said in a televised address Wednesday.