Talks in Turkey to release Ukrainian grain

Turkey talks to release Ukrainian grain


KYIV | Delegations from Ukraine, Russia and Turkey were trying in Istanbul on Wednesday to remove obstacles to the export of Ukrainian cereals via the Black Sea, which are sorely lacking on the world market.

Some 20 million tonnes of grain are currently stuck in ports in the Odessa region of southern Ukraine due to Russia's invasion of the country launched on February 24.

In Ukraine, multiple rocket launchers hit several sites in the Mykolaiv region on the Black Sea, killing at least five people, according to a Ukrainian official.

Kyiv also expects a new Russian offensive in the Donetsk region in the east of the country, where the town of Bakhmout, close to the front, was again bombarded on Wednesday morning.

“We never get used to war, it's dreadful and scary,” says Lyubov Mojayeva, a 60-year-old agronomist who came to get some food in the former Bakhmout cultural center.

Along the Bosphorus, the utmost discretion surrounds the holding of discussions behind closed doors between military experts in the presence of a United Nations delegation, which the Turkish Ministry of Defense has said it wants to keep “confidential”.

The meeting began shortly after 11:15 GMT, at an undisclosed location.

Ukraine is one of the world's leading exporters of wheat and other cereals.

It is a question of establishing secure corridors allowing their transport, hampered by the Russian occupation of the ports of Ukraine and the presence of mines laid by Kyiv to protect its coasts.

It is the first time that representatives from Moscow and Kyiv have met face to face since March 29, a month after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when delegations from both sides met on the Bosphorus. , without progress.

Time is running out: this meeting takes place in a context of rising global food prices which poses the risk of famine, particularly in Africa.

< strong>Propitious setting

In an interview with the Spanish daily El Paispublished on Wednesday, the head of Ukrainian diplomacy Dmytro Kouleba appeared relatively confident about the outcome of this new meeting.

“We are on the verge of an agreement”, he believes . “Now everything depends on Russia.”

But Mr Kouleba suspects Moscow of blocking the discussions to deprive Kyiv of revenue. “They know that if we export, we will receive funds from international markets and that will strengthen us”.

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Russia, for its part, reiterated its demand on Tuesday to see the loading of ships inspected. “Our understandable conditions include the ability to check and search the ship to prevent arms smuggling and a commitment from kyiv not to stage provocations,” a Foreign Ministry official warned.

Turkey, a NATO member and ally of the two warring parties, is stepping up diplomatic efforts to facilitate the resumption of deliveries.

Turkish officials have assured that they have 20 merchant ships currently waiting in the Black Sea and could be quickly loaded with Ukrainian grain.

So far, Turkish efforts, conducted at the request of the UN, have not succeeded in unblocking the situation.

The visit to Ankara in early June by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did not allowed no progress, in the absence of any Ukrainian representation.

But the Russian Presidents, Vladimir Putin, and Turkish Presidents, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are to meet on July 19 in Tehran on the sidelines of a summit on Syria, which could provide the framework conducive to the announcement of an agreement.

The Turkish president has acted as a mediator between the two countries since the beginning of the conflict, taking care however, while providing combat drones to Ukraine, not to offend Moscow.

Offensive in “operational pause”

Turkey and its struggling economy, with record inflation of 79% over one year, depend heavily on trade with Russia and gas Russian.

Ukraine has even repeatedly denounced the shuttles of Turkish cargo ships across the Black Sea to and from Ukrainian ports under Russian control.

On the military front, Russia has not conducted any major ground offensive since it defeated the last pockets of resistance in the Lugansk region in early July, forming with that of Donetsk the Donbass mining basin, partially controlled since 2014 by pro-Russian separatists.

Analysts speak of an “operational pause” for Russian forces before the assault on the city of Sloviansk and that of Kramatorsk, the administrative center of Donbass still under Ukrainian control.

For American officials, the Russians are trying to overcome their losses while negotiating the acquisition of hundreds of combat drones with Iran.

For its part, Ukraine is trying to counter the Russians by organizing increasingly powerful attacks with new US and European rocket systems targeting arms depots.

Turkey talks to release Ukrainian grain

< p>Turkey talks to release Ukrainian grain

According to the Ukrainian General Staff, Kharkiv, the second city of Ukraine, in the northeast, was again bombarded on Wednesday, as were several districts of Bakhmout. “The enemy continues to carry out assaults to improve its position and create favorable conditions for the offensive in the Izium-Slovyansk direction,” he said.

Four civilians died in the Donetsk region, including one in Bakhmout, according to Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

The death toll from the Russian bombardment on Sunday of a residential building in Chassiv Iar, in the same Donbass mining basin, rose to 46 dead, according to Ukrainian relief.