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UN urges center in İstanbul implementing grain deal to expedite clearance of ships

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The United Nations has called on the Joint Coordination Centre in İstanbul, which facilitates the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, allowing vessels to export Ukrainian grain amid a Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports, to speed up the clearance of ships, CNN reported on Saturday.

According to the report, no ships had received authorization to travel to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since June 26.

Under the terms of the grain deal brokered by the UN and Turkey in July 2022, Russian and Ukrainian inspectors are responsible for clearing ships for passage amid the ongoing Russian sea blockade of Ukrainian ports. However, Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of impeding traffic, leading to concerns over food security.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the UN secretary-general, said, “We note with concern that no new vessels have been allowed to join the Black Sea Initiative since June 26, despite the submission of 29 applications to the Joint Coordination Centre.” Haq further revealed that only 13 ships remain in the Grain Initiative, adding that they are “either loading in the Ukrainian ports or on the move to or from Istanbul.”

Highlighting the urgency of the matter, Haq urged the involved parties to ensure that “additional vessels are allowed to sail the maritime humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea, which serves as a global lifeline for food security.” He also said the export of foodstuffs in June had amounted to 2 million tonnes, significantly below port capacity and industry demands.

The ongoing Russian sea blockade of Ukrainian ports has severely impacted Ukraine’s ability to export its agricultural products, particularly grain, as the country is a major supplier to the World Food Programme. The situation has led to skyrocketing food prices on global markets, disproportionately affecting the world’s poorest populations.

On May 17, 2023 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced a two-month extension of the UN-backed Black Sea grain deal. The agreement allows Ukraine to ship grain across the Black Sea to global markets and aims to alleviate the impact of the Russian blockade. Erdoğan expressed hope that the extended deal would be “beneficial for all the parties” involved. He thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for their efforts in extending the agreement.

The Black Sea grain deal, initially brokered in July 2022, created safe corridors for the export of Ukrainian grain to address the crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of the previous year. However, the agreement has faced periodic threats as Russia and Ukraine struggled to agree on renewing it before expiration deadlines. Furthermore, Ukraine’s attempts to increase agricultural exports by land have led to tensions with neighboring EU countries, with farmers claiming that their produce is being undercut.

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