A just-brokered agreement to facilitate Ukrainian grain exports is a “ray of hope” for those suffering from hunger worldwide, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday.
“Today at last we have a ray of hope; a ray of hope to ease human suffering, and alleviate hunger around the world; a ray of hope to support developing countries and the most vulnerable people, a ray of hope to a bring a measure of much needed stability to the global food system,” Guterres said at the UN’s New York headquarters.
The comments came just minutes after Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced that Turkish, Ukrainian, Russian and UN officials agreed to establish a coordination center in Istanbul to facilitate Ukrainian grain exports.
Akar said the participants found common ground on technical issues, such as navigational safety on transfer routes, as well as joint controls at entry and exit of ports.
Representatives of Ukraine and Russia are set to gather in Türkiye next week to review the details of the agreement and also sign relevant documents, making the deal official, he added.
Guterres thanked Türkiye for its “outstanding efforts” during the talks, as well as Ankara’s “critical role going forward.”
Still, he maintained additional work will be needed in order to “materialize today’s progress,” but said the agreement is an indisputable indication that “the momentum is clear.”
“Today is an important and substantive step, a step on the way to a comprehensive agreement,” he said. “We must also do more for struggling people in developing countries getting pummeled by a food, energy and financial crisis not of their making.”
Ukraine is colloquially referred to as a global “breadbasket,” and is the fifth largest wheat exporter worldwide, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
UN officials warned in June of endangered world food security due to Russia’s war on Ukraine, saying it poses the threat of famine, destabilization, and mass migration worldwide as Russia blockades the Black Sea ports that normally send grain to the world.
The US and its allies have accused the Kremlin of attempting to use Ukrainian agricultural exports as “blackmail” in order to gain leverage to lift US and its partner nations’ sanctions.