According to senior Turkish and UN leaders, representatives from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the UN have reached consensus on major elements of a proposal to resume the sale of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.
Officials from the four sides decided to construct a coordination center in Istanbul where their representatives would oversee grain shipments leaving the country during a meeting that took place overnight on Wednesday, local time.
The agreement is the first tangible result of weeks of diplomatic efforts, spearheaded by the UN and Turkey, to ease a worldwide food crisis brought on by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Millions of tonnes of grain are stranded in the country as a result of the war, which has reduced supplies and increased prices on global markets.
In New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres remarked, "Today at last we have a ray of hope in a world darkened by global catastrophe." Today represents a significant and fundamental step toward a full deal, according to the statement.
Officials said that broad guidelines for how grain may once again be exported through Ukraine's Black Sea ports were agreed upon at the end of the discussions, but they emphasized that any agreement still needed Russian President Vladimir Putin's approval.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet next week in Tehran, officials think this might occur.
In accordance with the general understanding established, grain may be transported from three Ukrainian ports in convoys with Ukrainian ships accompanying them, with a ceasefire to safeguard ships within specific geographic boundaries and some minesweeping. In order to allay Russian suspicions that the ships would be used to carry Western weapons to Kyiv's military, the Turkish navy would inspect empty ships when they arrived at Ukrainian ports.
The UN will set up a control center in Istanbul to track the severity of the maritime threat.
Technical issues, such as how mines placed around Ukrainian ports will be cleared, still need to be worked out. A Western official added that although Ukraine had first informed the UN that a safe route could be mapped through its minefields, it would also be necessary to clear so-called floating mines.
The person stressed that the necessity for Putin's approval was still crucial. An agreement could be inked in the upcoming days when technical issues are resolved, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations, but they cautioned that "it would be misleading to imply an agreement is near."
Deals on a Black Sea grain corridor have been unsuccessful in part because to Ukraine's reluctance to remove mines that it claims are essential to defending against a potential Russian naval attack.
Following the full-scale invasion that started in February, Ukrainian authorities are demanding security guarantees in exchange for demolishing mines and claiming they cannot rely on Russia not to attack.