#grain #deal #Russia #Ukraine
Russia and Ukraine are set to sign an elusive deal on Friday that would see grain shipments resume across the Black Sea for the first time since February’s invasion of the Kremlin.
Here’s what we know about the deal:
– Joint management and control –
A joint command and control center will be set up in Istanbul to monitor smooth operations and resolve disputes.
Participants include the two warring factions, as well as officials from Turkey and the United Nations.
UN officials estimate the center will take three to four weeks to set up. That means grain may not flow at full speed again until the second half of August.
Its location in Istanbul is both a nod to Turkey’s central location and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s key role in settling a dispute that often seemed intractable.
– inspections –
Ship inspections remained one of the most complex and politically sensitive parts of the agreement.
Mines have been laid in areas around Ukraine’s main Black Sea ports to stave off a feared Russian amphibious attack.
Ukraine also didn’t want Russia to board its ships to check if arms would be delivered when the ships returned to port.
UN officials said the four sides agreed that the ship inspections required by Russia in the open sea were too difficult to carry out.
The four parties would instead monitor them on their way back to Ukraine at one of Turkey’s ports – most likely Istanbul.
It is not yet clear who will be allowed to board the Ukrainian ships.
– Safe crossing –
Officials said it was quickly decided that clearing the area would take too long to ease the threat of famine spreading to some of the poorest parts of the world.
UN officials say the deal ensures Ukrainians steer their own ships along safe routes — so-called “corridors” — that avoid known minefields.
Ukrainian ships will guide the grain ships in and out of Ukrainian territorial waters.
Both sides also pledged not to attack ships en route in or out.
This point, too, was controversial: Ukraine has warned that it does not trust Russian promises because these were repeatedly broken during the war.
Any attack or dispute at sea would go to the Joint Command and Control Center in Istanbul for review.
– Russian grain –
The deal was in jeopardy when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced this week that he expects his own country’s crops to be included in the agreement.
Russia is being hit by waves of sanctions against its shipping companies, but also against agricultural products such as fertilizers.
The US Treasury Department issued a clarification last week saying that Russian fertilizers and “agricultural commodities” are not subject to trade restrictions.
The European Union also made an exception for Russian wheat and fertilizers on Wednesday.
The UN and Russia are to sign a separate memorandum of understanding in Istanbul, guaranteeing that grain and fertilizers cannot be directly or indirectly affected by sanctions.
– 120 days –
The deal is scheduled to be signed at 13:30 GMT at Istanbul’s magnificent Dolmabahce Palace in the presence of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The warring parties are expected to be represented by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Ukrainian Oleksandr Kubrakov.
The agreement is valid for 120 days and can be automatically extended without further negotiations.
It includes Ukraine’s Black Sea ports in Odessa and two neighboring locations.
Officials believe 120 days should be enough to clear a backlog of up to 25 million tons of wheat and other grains now stuck in Ukrainian ports.
#grain #deal #Russia #Ukraine