By Janet Ekstract
İSTANBUL- The official opening ceremony of the new joint coordination center for Ukraine grain exports opened with a formal ceremony at the National Defense Ministry on Wednesday, in Istanbul. It was created to restart global grain exports from Ukraine that were halted due to Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lauded the Turkish government’s efforts in facilitating the historic deal between Russia and Ukraine with UN-led negotiations.
A major concern of the UN, the EU and the U.S. was the possibility of a serious global food crisis if grain was unable to get out of Ukraine which is the fifth largest producer of wheat in the world. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who presided over the grain deal negotiations commented: “The duty of the center is to provide safe sea transportation of grain and similar food products to be exported from Ukraine.” Akar said the center will make “significant contributions” to averting a global food security crisis and in lowering global food prices that have skyrocketed in every country over the last 9 months.
The center will have five representatives from both military and civilian sectors from Türkiye, Russia, Ukraine and the UN – Akar said there won’t be any military personnel involved. The deal was signed last Friday after a series of intense negotiations took place in Türkiye with all parties and spearheaded by UN officials. Joint inspections at the entrances and exits of harbors will be carried out to make sure grain export routes are safe. Akar said the center will register and monitor the departure of commercial ships via satellite, internet and other communication methods. The center will also coordinate all its activities with the UN.
Joint inspection teams will monitor and inspect the ships at specific locations that would be suited to loading at Ukrainian ports and on arrival in Türkiye. The agreement will remain valid for 120 days and it will be renewed unless any parties involved have an objection. The Turkish defense minister also explained that at the present time there is no need for demining at any of the Ukrainian ports – Turkish officials had offered to send demining teams to assist with that process to make ship passage much safer. Akar said preparations are ongoing to prepare for the first ships to leave Ukrainian ports very soon.