Doubts about Russia’s good faith in the agreement to export Ukrainian grain withheld overshadowed the signing of the documents today in Turkey, a long-awaited moment that earned António Guterres and the UN’s mediation praise.
The distrust between the Russian and Ukrainian parties was evident even in the highly choreographed signing ceremony: rejecting any agreement with invading Russia, Ukraine signed a separate “twin” agreement with Turkey and the UN.
After two months of intense negotiations, the documents aim to create a control center in Istanbul, headed by representatives of the parties involved: a Ukrainian, a Russian, a Turkish, and a United Nations representative.
These should establish the schedule for rotating ships in the Black Sea, starting with an inspection of ships carrying grain.
This is another point of mistrust and one that can provide pretexts for breaking the agreements: inspections aim to ensure that ships do not take weapons to Ukraine. These inspections, which will be carried out both on departure and arrival of ships, will take place in the ports of Istanbul.
About 25 million tons of grain are held up in Black Sea ports due to the armed conflict on Ukrainian territory.
The documents were signed by Serguei Shoigu and the Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure, Oleksandr Kubrakov, in the presence of the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, and the Turkish Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also attended the ceremony.
The agreement also implies some preparatory work, namely the demining of Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea, in the case of Odessa, which in recent months has been buffeted by Russian missiles.
With the alarm already sounding due to the food situation of several countries dependent on cereal imports – Africans and the Middle East, among others – António Guterres showed hope at the ceremony, at Dolmabahçe Palace, in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
The agreement “will bring relief to developing countries, on the brink of bankruptcy, and to the most vulnerable people, on the brink of hunger, in addition to helping to stabilize global food prices”, defended Guterres, who interrupted his vacation on Thursday. fair to travel to Turkey.
While the ink was still drying on the paper in Istanbul, Guterres already said in an interview with CNN that this was a defining moment in his more than five years as secretary-general – and his handling of the conflict in Ukraine has been criticized by former heads of the organization.
The praise for Guterres came in particular from Brussels — Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission — and from Lisbon — with the Minister of Foreign Affairs stressing that the UN Secretary-General “worked very intensively on this agreement”.
But skepticism about Russian intentions was also evident in the reception of the agreement, with Minister João Gomes Cravinho saying that the world “will be keeping its eyes on Russia, remembering that, in other recent moments, Moscow did not respect its word, namely in the agreements for the creation of humanitarian corridors in the Ukrainian war.
“We have this concern. Russia has repeatedly shown that it does not keep its word”, regretted Gomes Cravinho in statements to Lusa.
“I understand that Ukrainians have the greatest difficulty in signing a document in common with Russia. It is a country that is invading them and that has violated international written agreements”, he added.
The very coldness of the Russian reaction suggests difficulties in the success of these cereal outlets. Presenting the Istanbul deal as a kind of demonstration of Moscow’s reason, Russian diplomat Sergei Lavrov said it “demonstrates once again the absolutely artificial character of the West’s attempts to blame Russia for supply problems.” of cereals on the international market”.
“We hope that all the necessary measures will be adopted soon for the effective fulfillment of the said agreements”, he warned, disagreeing with his fellow Defense Minister, Serguei Shoigu, who said that “all the prerequisites and conditions” exist for the process to start in the next few days.
But, warned Shoigu, “it’s not just about exporting agricultural products from Ukrainian ports, but obviously also exporting agricultural products and fertilizers from Russian ports.”
Also in Kyiv, and as fighting continues with Russian forces in various parts of the country, mistrust prevails.
“We have confidence in the UN as the driving force of this agreement, as an institution and in the secretary-general who invested his reputation and his ability to make the agreement work and Russia does not break it, as it has already broken several agreements”, declared the Ukrainian minister. of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, at a press conference.
“Ukraine doesn’t trust Russia. I don’t think anyone has reason to trust Russia,” stressed the head of Ukrainian diplomacy.
Source: With Agencies