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UN chief hails "critical step forward" on resuming Ukraine grain exports

The UN chief on Wednesday described progress between Russia and Ukraine on allowing the resumption of grain exports during UN-brokered talks in Turkey as a "ray of hope to ease human suffering and alleviate hunger around the world", according to the UN website.

Secretary-General António Guterres said that a "critical step forward" had been taken to allow the "safe and secure export" of millions of tonnes of grain via the Black Sea, but emphasized that no formal agreement has yet been signed between Russia and Ukraine.

The UN said the Government of Turkey has been working with the UN to broker a deal for weeks, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, saw a major rise in prices of grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer, together with major supply chain issues across the world.

Much of the grain imported by developing countries comes from Ukraine, but since the invasion, the country’s Black Sea ports have been blockaded by Russia, including the crucial hub of Odesa.

"In a world darkened by global crises, today, at last, we have a ray of hope," said Mr. Guterres, briefing correspondents at UN Headquarters in New York.

"A ray of hope to ease human suffering and alleviate hunger around the world. A ray of hope to support developing countries and the most vulnerable people. A ray of hope to bring a measure of much-needed stability to the global food system."

He recalled that the war in Ukraine rages on, but the "hopeful news" from the Istanbul talks, "shows the importance of dialogue".

Responding to questions from reporters, the Secretary-General said that he hoped the first meeting in Istanbul would lead to another, "very soon", potentially next week.

Asked about the wider possibility of a peace deal being reached between Russia and Ukraine to end the fighting, Mr. Guterres said there was still a "long way to go", although Wednesday's developments were an extremely encouraging sign.

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