Ukraine, Russia see positive signs for grain deal; wheat prices ease
Ukraine's Black Sea ports have been blockaded since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, sending global prices of grains and sunflower oil soaring.
Major global wheat exporters Ukraine and Russia see positive signs in discussions which could lead to the resumption of Ukrainian Black Sea grain exports after Wednesday's talks in Istanbul, their officials said.
Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations are due to sign a deal next week aimed at resuming Ukraine's grain exports, Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar said after the talks, although U.N. chief Antonio Guterres was a little more cautious.
Ukraine is "definitely a step closer to a result," the country's infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov told Reuters on Thursday.
There has indeed been a substantive discussion on this issue in Istanbul, Maria Zakharova, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters on Thursday.
"It was possible to formulate some elements of a possible agreement which Russia, Ukraine and Turkey are now discussing in their capitals through their military departments," she said.
Ukraine's Black Sea ports have been blockaded since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, sending global prices of grains and sunflower oil soaring. Chicago wheat prices have since fallen back to pre-war levels due to the new crop in the Northern Hemisphere.
A preliminary date for the next four-way meeting is July 20 or 21, the Russian RIA news agency reported on Thursday, citing a source familiar with the situation.
According to the Turkish defense ministry, the date of the next meeting is still not clear.
Any deal would require the removal of mines near Black Sea ports and political will despite Moscow and Kyiv being far from any kind of peace settlement. Read full story
"The information about a technical decision to create a coordination center for the export of Ukrainian grain in Istanbul logically means that there is no political decision yet. And that is not surprising," said Bohdan Yaremenko, a lawmaker for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's political party.
The grain talks are the prerogative of Russia's military, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday: "If there is a need to announce results of the negotiations, the military will do so."
Russia has continued to export grain since the war started but there is a lack of large vessels as many owners are afraid to send them to the region. Cost of freight and insurance have also risen sharply.
The United States has said Russian grain and fertilizer are not subject to sanctions and has offered to give written assurances to shipping companies and importing countries.
Farmers of both countries are currently harvesting the 2022 wheat crop. July-November is usually the busiest time for traders to ship the new crop.
The coming harvest is also at risk as Ukraine is now short of storage space due to the halt in exports.