U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar attend a signing ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey July 22, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Russia and Ukraine have agreed a solution with the United Nations and Turkey for the export of millions of tons of grain from war-torn Ukraine. Both Russia and Ukraine separately signed corresponding agreements on Friday in Istanbul, mediated by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Before the Russian war of aggression, Ukraine was one of the most important grain exporters in the world. The deal “opens the way for large-scale commercial food exports from three key Ukrainian Black Sea ports — Odessa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhnyy,” Guterres said. “This is a deal for the world.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was also present at the ceremony, called the day “historic”.

Because of the Russian war of aggression against the neighboring country, around 20 million tons of grain cannot be exported from Ukraine. However, the food is urgently needed on the world market – especially in Asia and Africa. The United Nations recently warned of the worst famine in decades.

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the grain conflict with his Turkish counterpart Erdogan at a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran on Tuesday.

According to the UN, a humanitarian corridor has now been agreed between Ukraine and the Bosporus – the strait between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Accordingly, the export is monitored by a joint coordination center with representatives of the United Nations, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey in Istanbul. A senior UN official called the center the “heartbeat of the operation.”

According to the information, the parties also agreed that ships bound for Ukraine would first be searched in Istanbul to ensure that they were not carrying weapons or the like. There should be another check in Turkey if the ships coming from Ukraine want to leave the Black Sea again. This is to ensure that only grain is on board. That had been a condition of Russia.

Ships in the humanitarian corridor and the ports involved should not be attacked. This point is interpreted in New York in such a way that a ceasefire should actually apply in these strategically important places – for example in the port of Odessa. The agreement is said to be initially valid for four months.