Wael Badran (Abu Dhabi)
The European Union’s spokesman in the Middle East and North Africa, Luis Miguel Bueno, affirmed that the European Union welcomed the agreements signed in Istanbul between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations to open the Black Sea to Ukrainian exports of grain, noting that it is a crucial step to address the global food crisis.
“This is a critical step forward in the effort to overcome global food insecurity caused by the Russian attack on Ukraine,” Bueno said, adding that “its success will depend on the swift implementation and goodwill toward the agreement.”
The agreement, which was signed last Friday in Istanbul under the auspices of the United Nations, aims to allow safe passage in and out of Ukrainian ports, which have been closed by the Russian fleet on the Black Sea since the Moscow attack on February 24, in what a UN official described as a “de facto ceasefire.”
Bueno stressed that the European Union supports the tireless efforts of Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths and UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebecca Greenspan, under the leadership of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, to find ways to lift the ban on Ukrainian agricultural exports.
“We commend Turkey for its important role in mediating this agreement and supporting its implementation,” he added, stressing that the European Union remains committed to helping Ukraine bring as much of its grain as possible to world markets as quickly as possible.
“The EU Solidarity Corridors Scheme facilitated the export of 2.5 million tons in June alone, and we are working closely with partners such as the United Nations and the Group of Seven to strengthen a multilateral response to the broader aspects of global food security.”
Russia and Ukraine are major global suppliers of wheat, and the Ukraine crisis has led to the seizure of tens of millions of tons of grain, causing further bottlenecks in the global supply chain.
This, along with Western sanctions on Russia, caused a jump in food and energy prices, which pushed about 47 million people into “severe hunger,” according to the World Food Program.
Bueno indicated that the European Union has allocated more than 7.7 billion euros for this purpose until 2024.
He explained that in line with the UN Charter, the EU will continue to work with and support the UN Secretary-General in addressing the consequences of this conflict.
Bueno warned that “the Russian attack led to the destruction of infrastructure, agricultural equipment and transportation in Ukraine, which caused fuel shortages and created global problems in the food supply chain by closing Ukraine’s ports and confiscating Ukrainian grain.”
“Russia has endangered the food security of millions of people around the world, while the current agreement provides an opportunity to start reversing this negative course,” he said.
Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis and blames Western sanctions for slowing its exports of food and fertilizers and Ukraine for the road mines leading to its ports.
Ukraine, according to previous statements by the Ukrainian Foreign Minister to the “Union”, has mined waters near its ports as part of its war defences, but under the agreement, the pilots will direct the ships along the safe passages in its territorial waters.
A joint coordination center, which includes members from the four parties to the agreement, will monitor the ships transiting from the Black Sea to the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey and from there to global markets, and all parties agreed, last Friday, not to target them with attacks. Putin calls the attack on Ukraine a “special military operation” and says it aims to disarm Ukraine and “root out dangerous nationalists.” But Kyiv and the West say that this is an unfounded excuse, and that the aim of the attack is to seize territory.
Meanwhile, Ukraine continued its efforts yesterday to resume the export of grain from the Black Sea ports, under the “Istanbul Agreement”, but warned that shipments would face problems.
“We are continuing technical preparations for the resumption of exports of agricultural products from our ports,” Oleksandr Kubrakov, Minister of Infrastructure, said on Facebook.
But economic adviser to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky warned that although Ukraine has the capacity to export 60 million tons of grain over the next nine months, it could take up to 24 months if its ports are not working properly.