UN negotiates food supply channel from Ukraine amidst ongoing conflict

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The United Nations Secretary General has announced that a framework agreement has been reached to ensure the safe and secure export of Ukrainian food products through the Black Sea.

The announcement in New York came after military delegations from Russia and Ukraine met with Turkish and UN officials in Istanbul earlier Wednesday after months of behind-the-scenes talks and the pursuit of quiet diplomacy by the UN.

The global organisation has long been acute concerned with soaring prices for grain, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer and while a final deal is yet to be penned.

UN Chief Antonio Guterres is calling it a critical step forward to ensuring that food exports can resume from the Black Sea port of Odessa after exports were blocked due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ripple effects of the almost 5-month conflict.

“In a world darkened by global crises, 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 bring a measure of much-needed stability to the global food system. Since the war started, I have been underlining the importance of having Ukraine’s food products and Russian food and fertilizer fully available in world markets.”

He has confirmed that more technical work needed to be done to materialise the progress made in talks in Istanbul but that a future deal now had clear momentum, calling the ever-likely agreement not just one between the Russian Federation and Ukraine but one for the entire world. Guterres also pledged UN support for any outstanding issues.

“Today is an important and substantive step. A step on the way to a comprehensive agreement. We must also do more for struggling people and developing countries getting pummeled by food, energy and financial crises not of their making. We must do more to help all those living on the margins around the world – countries on the brink of bankruptcy, families on the edge of famine. Finally, let us never forget that these talks are happening in the midst of a bloody conflict. People are still dying. But the hopeful news from Istanbul shows the importance of dialogue.”

We asked him if he felt that amid widespread criticism of the UN’s inability to move the parties closer to a peace deal if the organisation deserved at least some credit for achieving this framework?

He says in response, “I never claim credit for the UN or for myself. I think that we have been working. I think that our work was vital. But I also do not minimize the credit of all the other key elements of these agreements – credit of the two parties and the credit of the Turkish government. So I think that we would be very happy to share that credit with everybody.”

The UN Chief now departs New York for his annual vacation but said he’d be happy to interrupt his downtime to attend any future signing ceremony cementing the arrangement. Fingers crossed until all is said and done.