Ukraine hopes for cereal export breakthrough if talks resume in Istanbul


  • Four-way talks start in Turkey
  • More than 20 million tons of grain blocked in Odessa
  • Ukraine says it’s just ‘2 steps away’ from deal
  • Russia says it is concerned about arms smuggling
  • Says it also needs some sanctions relief

ISTANBUL, July 13 (Reuters) – Ukraine said on Wednesday a deal to resume grain exports blocked by Russia seemed very close as four-way talks prepared to resume, raising hopes of an end to a deadlock that has exposed millions to the risk of famine.

More than 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain are stuck in silos in the port of Odessa on the Black Sea and dozens of ships have been stranded by the Russian blockade, part of what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, but which kills Kiev and the West. to say is an unjustified war of aggression.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Spanish newspaper El Pais ahead of talks in Istanbul between Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and UN officials that Kiev believed it was now very close to closing a deal to resume exports. used to be.

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“We are two steps away from a deal with Russia. We are in the final phase and now everything depends on Russia,” he quoted him as saying. Other participants in the negotiations were more cautious and said there was still a lot to be agreed upon.

Talks were set to start behind closed doors at 1000 GMT.

They took place amid relative silence on the front lines of the war. Russia on Wednesday said it had shot down four Ukrainian military jets and the Donetsk governor reported heavy Russian shelling in the eastern region but no civilian casualties. read more

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield records.

Ukraine and Russia are major global wheat suppliers. Russia is also a major exporter of fertilizers and Ukraine a major producer of corn and sunflower oil, so closing a deal to unblock exports is considered vital for food security, especially among developing countries, and for stabilizing markets. .

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of exacerbating a global food crisis by complicating efforts to supply poorer countries with grain and fueling inflation.

Moscow has blamed Ukraine for the problem, accusing Kiev of refusing to remove mines it has scattered along its coastline to protect itself from the Russian attack, which it says poses a threat to shipping.

Russia has also slammed the West for imposing sanctions on a range of sectors that make it more difficult for Russia to finance and ensure its own sea freight services.

RUSSIAN SANCTIONS LIGHTING?

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday that participants in the Istanbul talks were “working hard” but there was still some way to go to reach a deal.

“A lot of people talk about it. We’d rather try to do it,” he told reporters.

Diplomats say details of the plan under discussion include an idea for Ukrainian ships to guide grain ships in and out of mined harbor waters; Russia agrees to ceasefire as shipments move; and Turkey – backed by the United Nations – inspecting ships to allay Russian fears of arms smuggling.

Russian news agency Interfax quoted Pyotr Ilyichev, head of the international organizations division of the Russian foreign ministry, as saying that Russia wanted to check and inspect ships to rule out arms smuggling.

He said Russia was ready to facilitate the navigation of foreign commercial ships to export Ukrainian grain.

Russia’s RIA news agency quoted an unnamed diplomatic source as saying that Russia’s demands include the removal of “export barriers” created by Western sanctions, citing the areas of “ship insurance, logistics, transportation services and banking”.

Russia has continued to export grain since the war started on Feb. 24, but there is a lack of large ships because many owners are afraid to send them to the region. The costs of freight and insurance have also risen sharply.

Ukraine on Tuesday raised hopes of an increase in grain exports, despite the Russian blockade following the reopening of the Bystre Canal, which provides access to small inland ports. read more

Ukraine expects monthly grain exports to increase by 500,000 tons, said Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yuriy Vaskov. Ukraine is also negotiating with Romania and the European Commission to increase supplies through the Sulina Canal, he said.

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Reporting by Reuters agencies; writing by Andrew Osborn; Edited by John Stonestreet

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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