Turkish defense minister puts effort to salvage grain deal
Turkey joined Ukraine and the United Nations on Monday to implement the Black Sea grain deal for the transit plan of 16 vessels to move forward, despite Russia's withdrawal from the pact, while Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar continued efforts to bring Russia back to table to allow Ukrainian grain to reach world markets.
Russia on Sunday pulled out of a key grain deal brokered by the UN and Turkey, accusing Ukraine of a drone attack on the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, Crimea. Russia's defense ministry said drones used in Saturday's attack targeted ships involved in the grain deal.
Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied it was behind the attack.
Following Russia's move, Chicago wheat futures jumped more than 5 percent on Monday as both Russia and Ukraine are among the world's largest wheat exporters, analysts said.
No ships moved through the established maritime humanitarian corridor on Sunday. But the United Nations said in a statement that it had agreed with Ukraine and Turkey on a movement plan for 16 vessels on Monday - 12 outbound and 4 inbound.
The statement said the Russian officials at the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul had been told about the plan, along with the intention to inspect 40 outbound vessels on Monday, and noted that "all participants coordinate with their respective military and other relevant authorities to ensure the safe passage of commercial vessels" under the deal.
During Sunday's session among the grain deal delegations, Russian officials said Moscow will continue the dialogue with the United Nations and the Turkish delegation on pressing issues, the U.N. said in its statement.
The Turkish defense ministry also said on Twitter that Minister Hulusi Akar was in contact with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts to try and salvage the agreement and had asked the parties to avoid any provocation.
Earlier this year global wheat prices jumped to an all-time high as Russia's invasion of Ukraine added fuel to a rally set off by adverse weather and Kovid-19 supply disruptions.
The grain deal had restarted shipments from Ukraine, allowing sales on world markets, targeting the pre-war level of 5 million metric tonnes exported from Ukraine each month.
However, Russia claimed on Friday that only 3% of food exported under a U.N.-brokered deal to release grain from blockaded Ukrainian ports has gone to the poorest countries, with Western countries accounting for half of all shipments.
Russia is ready to supply up to 500,000 tonnes of grain free of charge to poor countries in the next four months, with assistance from Turkey, TASS news agency cited Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev as saying on Saturday.