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Black Sea grain exports agreement ‘a beacon of hope’: UN chief Antonio Guterres

The agreement to resume grain shipments from Ukrainian ports to international markets via the Black Sea is “a beacon of hope” for the world, said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The agreement signed Friday by Ukraine, Russia and T�rkiye under UN auspices “opens a path for commercial food exports from Ukraine in the Black Sea,” Guterres said in a tweet.

“It is a beacon of hope, possibility and relief,” the UN chief tweeted, noting that the deal will help avoid a food shortage catastrophe for millions worldwide.

Guterres attended the signing ceremony of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in Istanbul, Turkiye, Xinhua news agency reported.

In remarks at the ceremony issued by his press office at the UN headquarters in New York, Guterres thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government for facilitating the talks that led to the deal, and commended the Russian and Ukrainian representatives for putting aside their differences in the common interests of humanity.

“The question has not been what is good for one side or the other,” he said. “The focus has been on what matters most for the people of our world. And let there be no doubt — this is an agreement for the world.”

The secretary-general pointed out that the shipment of grain and food stocks into world markets will help bridge the global food supply gap and reduce pressure on high prices.

“This initiative must be fully implemented because the world so desperately needs it to tackle the global food crisis,” he added.

Guterres also announced the establishment of a joint coordination center in Istanbul to monitor the implementation of the Black Sea initiative.

He acknowledged “the long road” and immense efforts and commitment by all sides as well as weeks of around-the-clock negotiations leading up to the agreement.

On the UN side, Guterres said that in April, after talks with Erdogan, he also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to propose a plan for solutions, and “we have been working every day since.”

Two UN task forces worked in parallel on the talks — one focused on the shipment of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, which was led by UN humanitarian affairs chief Martin Griffiths, and the other on facilitating access of Russian food and fertilizers, headed by Rebecca Grynspan, secretary-general of the UN trade and development body, UNCTAD.

“For months, the secretary-general has been underlining the importance of facilitating full access to world markets for Ukraine’s food stocks and Russian food and fertilizers,” Guterres’ press office said Friday in a note to correspondents.

Ukraine and Russia are breadbaskets of the world, producing almost one-third of the world’s wheat and barley and half of its sunflower oil. Russia is also a top global exporter of fertilizers and the raw materials for its production, according to the note.

The parties of the initiative recognized the role of the UN secretary-general in securing the discussions. They went on to request his further assistance in its implementation, in the furtherance of the humanitarian mission of the United Nations, subject to its authorities and mandates, the note said.

Speaking at the ceremony, Guterres pledged the UN’s full commitment to the agreement, and urged all sides to do the same.

“We will remain closely involved in working for the agreement’s success,” he said. “I urge all sides to spare no effort to implement their commitments. We must also spare no effort for peace.”

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