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Turkey says three shipments of grain will leave Ukraine on Friday

#Turkey #shipments #grain #leave #Ukraine #Friday

Three more ships loaded with grain will depart Ukraine on Friday under a UN-backed deal to lift Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea, Turkey’s defense minister said.

“Three ships are scheduled to set sail from Ukraine tomorrow,” state-run Anadolu News Agency quoted Defense Minister Hulusi Akar as saying, a day after the first ship en route to Lebanon passed Istanbul.

Ankara also said that Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed the implementation of the agreement over the phone with UN chief Antonio Guterres without giving further details.

Moscow and Kyiv agreed in Istanbul last month to ship wheat and other grains from Ukrainian ports for the first time since Russia invaded its neighbor in February.

The first ship, loaded with 26,000 tons of corn, left Odessa for the Lebanese port of Tripoli on Monday.

The Razoni, flying the Sierra Leonean flag, was cleared for passage through the Bosphorus on Wednesday by a team that included Russian and Ukrainian inspectors.

The ship’s passage is monitored by an international team including officials from Turkey, the United Nations and the two warring factions.

The team said in a statement that the successful passage of the first ship provides a “proof of concept” that the agreement can hold.

Ukraine said earlier this week it has 16 other ships loaded with grain and ready to put to sea.

But she also accuses Russia of stealing Ukrainian grain in areas seized by Kremlin forces and then shipping it to allied countries like Syria.

Turkish hopes that the deal could lead to ceasefire talks have so far been dashed.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to push for direct ceasefire negotiations when he meets Vladimir Putin at the Russian leader’s Black Sea retreat in Sochi on Friday.

“We discussed whether the grain agreement could be a reason for a sustainable ceasefire,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Cambodia on Wednesday.

Russia and Ukraine are important suppliers of wheat and other grains.

The halt to almost all shipments from Ukraine has pushed up global food prices and made imports unaffordable for some of the world’s poorest countries.

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