(CNN)– Ukraine and Russia signed this Friday in the Turkish city of Istanbul an agreement that allows the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, after months of negotiations mediated by Turkey and the United Nations. The information was confirmed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
The deal aims to resume grain exports from Ukrainian ports, which have been blocked by the five-month conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Western officials have accused Moscow of weaponizing food supplies, while the UN, leaders and experts have warned of a catastrophic food crisis as grain shipments have failed to reach the world market.
Some 20 million tons of grain are held in Ukraine, where the summer harvest is already underway.
The agreement will include three Ukrainian ports, including Odessa, will involve a Joint Coordination Center established in Istanbul and agreed safe corridors for merchant shipping.
What the agreement between Russia and Ukraine includes
The agreement signed this Friday in Istanbul would allow the export of 5 million tons of grain per month from three Ukrainian ports, a senior UN official said on Friday.
As part of the deal, grain ships will be able to navigate through a secure corridor in the Black Sea and then cross the Bosphorus to reach global markets.
The vessels will be monitored by a Joint Coordination Center (JCC), which will be established immediately in Istanbul and will include representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN.
The ships would be inspected before they arrive in Ukraine by Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials to make sure they are not carrying weapons, according to the official.
Ukraine and Russia have agreed not to attack any ships identified as part of this initiative that transit the established channels. In the event of an incident, the JCC will intervene to resolve any possible problems, the official said.
Representatives from the International Maritime Organization have been coordinating shipments with shipping networks, the official said.
It may take several weeks before the ships start moving so that all the logistical details of the deal can be properly implemented and inspection teams can be set up, the official said.
However, the process must start quickly so Ukraine’s silos can be emptied for the new harvest, the official said.
Some 20 million tons of grain are held up in Ukraine, where the summer harvest is already well advanced.
“There is a beacon of hope,” says the UN
The deal will allow the resumption of vital grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, a diplomatic breakthrough aimed at easing the global food crisis caused by the war, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday.
The deal comes after months of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia mediated by Turkey and the United Nations.
“Today, there is a beacon in the Black Sea. A beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever,” Guterres said.
“Promoting the well-being of humanity has been the driving force behind these conversations,” he said. “The question has not been what is good for one side or the other. The focus has been on what matters most to the people of our world. And let there be no doubt: this is a deal for the world.”
Guterres said the deal will bring relief to developing countries and help stabilize world food prices, “which were already at record levels even before the war, a real nightmare for developing countries.”
The agreement “was not easy” and “it has been a long road” since Guterres first met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to propose a solutions plan in April.
“We are counting on the government of Turkey to maintain its fundamental role in the future,” he said, adding that the UN will remain “closely involved in working for the success of the agreement.”
Guterres urged “all parties to spare no effort to implement their commitments” and said “we must spare no effort for peace.”
“This is an unprecedented agreement between two parties involved in a bloody conflict. But that conflict continues. People are dying every day. The fighting is intense every day,” he said.
“The beacon of hope in the Black Sea shines today, thanks to the collective efforts of so many. In these difficult and turbulent times for the region and our world, let that beacon lead the way to alleviate human suffering and ensure peace.” he added.
The agreement will free millions “from the danger of hunger”, says Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the agreement between the parties to facilitate the export of grains will alleviate the dangers of hunger for millions of people.
“Millions of people will be freed from this danger of starvation,” Erdogan said.
“In the next few days we will see the start of ship traffic and many countries will get a breath of fresh air,” Erdogan said.
“This will contribute to the entire process from export to arrival at the destination and on all points we have reached an agreement,” Erdogan said.
The Turkish president further said that the implementation of the agreement will be done through the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul.
“We carry out an intense and difficult process with Ukraine, Russia and UN officials for the export of grains. We were in constant contact. We had extensive consultations, the foreign and defense ministers made a lot of effort,” he added.