Officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations are likely to meet this week to discuss resuming Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports, Ankara said on Monday, while a Turkish official said ongoing “small problems” should be overcome.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – two of the world’s main suppliers of wheat – has sent prices of the cereal and other food products soaring.
It halted Kyiv’s exports, leaving dozens of ships stranded and some 20 million tons of grain stuck in silos in Odessa.
Last week, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations would sign an agreement this week on the grain export corridor after talks in Istanbul.
But UN chief Antonio Guterres warned there was still a “long way to go” before there could be peace talks to end the war.
“A plan, general principles for the transportation of grain and foodstuffs were agreed upon. A meeting on this issue is likely within the week,” Akar said on Monday.
He said technical issues such as forming a monitoring center in Istanbul, identifying safe routes and checkpoints at port exits and entries are on the agenda.
Guterres spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday about “ongoing negotiations” to resume Black Sea grain exports, a UN spokesman said.
A senior Turkish official said there was a strong possibility the quartet would sign a deal this week.
“However, there are a few small problems. Negotiations are ongoing to overcome them,” the official said, adding that any positive steps were affected by an attack or other major events that occurred in the war. But there is a general expectation that it will be signed this week. I’m pretty optimistic. It won’t take long before a final agreement is reached,” the person added.
Over the weekend, Russia vowed to step up military operations in Ukraine as its rockets and missiles pounded cities.
A Kremlin aide told reporters on Monday that the presidents of Russia and Turkey would discuss the issue during a meeting in Tehran on Tuesday.