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Can Russia And Ukraine Break The Impasse Over Grain Exports?

  • Military delegations from both Ukraine and Russia have held a face-to-face meeting in Istanbul as they attempt to break the impasse over grain exports.
  • Ukraine has estimated that up to 25 million tons of grain are currently blocked in its ports.
  • One plan being discussed involves Ukrainian vessels guiding grain ships in and out through port waters that are mined while Turkey would check ships for weapons.

Military delegations from Russia and Ukraine have held a face-to-face meeting in Istanbul in an attempt to break a damaging impasse over grain exports that has helped send global food prices soaring.

Turkish military officials and UN envoys also took part in the meeting on July 13, which is aimed at finding a way to get millions of tons of grain sitting in silos in Ukraine shipped out of the country's ports.

Turkey's Defense Ministry announced that the talks had ended about an hour and a half after they began but did not provide details.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson said Moscow had presented a package of proposals for a "speedy, practical resolution of this issue" during the meeting, the Interfax news agency reported.

The first day of the planned four-day meeting came with the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its seizure of ports on the Black Sea that were previously used to export Ukrainian wheat.

The negotiators hope to find a solution that would empty the silos in time for the upcoming harvest in Ukraine. Some grain is being transported through Europe by rail, road, and river, but the amount is small compared with what could be exported through sea routes.

While prices have caused hardships in most developed countries, many poorer countries, such as those in much of Africa, have been hit by widening food shortages.

Ukraine has been a major exporter of wheat and grain such as barley and maize. It has also supplied nearly half of all sunflower oil to global markets.

Many in Ukraine and the West have accused Moscow of attempting to export grain it has stolen from Ukrainian farmers in regions under its control.

Diplomats have said a plan being discussed includes having Ukrainian vessels guiding grain ships in and out through port waters that its forces have mined to prevent a feared amphibious assault by Russian forces.

The plan would also entail Russia agreeing to a truce while shipments move and Turkey -- with UN assistance -- would inspect ships to allay Russian fears of weapons smuggling.

UN chief Antonio Guterres on July 12 sought to downplay expectations for the Istanbul talks, telling reporters that “we are working hard indeed, but there is still a way to go."

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the talks would focus "on the safe shipment to international markets of grain waiting in Ukrainian ports."

Despite being a member of NATO, Ankara has maintained good relations with the Kremlin.

Turkey said it has 20 merchant ships waiting in the Black Sea region that could be quickly loaded with grain and moved on to world markets.

Ukraine has estimated that up to 25 million tons of grain are currently blocked in its ports.

Ukraine's recapture of tiny-but-strategic Snake Island in the Black Sea from Russian forces has enabled Kyiv to start its first shipments along the nearby Danube River running to Romania.

By RFE/RL

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on July 14 2022 said:
    The risk of a global food crisis and starvation in many of the poor countries in the world should transcend any national interests and this applies principally on the Ukraine conflict.

    Therefore, the impasse over grain exports should be broken at the utmost speed.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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