Diplomats said the breakthrough raised the prospects for an end to a standoff that has exposed millions to the risk of starvation. And the UN described the deal, which will be signed next week and comes after talks between the four sides in Istanbul, as ‘a critical step forward’.
Kyiv also said it was now optimistic about the Russia deal to reopen Black Sea, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky noting ‘significant efforts’ on all sides.
Announcing news of the breakthrough, Turkey’s defence minister, Hulusi Akar, said that the deal would be signed when the parties meet again next week and would include joint controls for checking grains in ports and Turkey ensuring the safety of Black Sea export routes for Ukrainian grain.
Turkey would also set up a coordination centre with Ukraine, Russia and the UN for grain exports, Akar said.
Ukraine’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, wrote on Twitter: “Its task will be to carry out general monitoring and coordination of safe navigation in the Black Sea.”
In his daily address, Mr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, said: “We are indeed making significant efforts to restore the supply of food to the world market. And I am grateful to the United Nations and Turkey for their respective efforts.”
Ukraine’s infrastructure minister was also optimistic about how effective the new deal might be.
“I hope we will achieve some results, some practical results very soon,” Oleksandr Kubrakov said.
“I hope we will see this green corridor appear in the Black Sea.”
Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia in February, had earlier said that a deal appeared “two steps away” as Turkey hosted the four-way talks in Istanbul.
But the UN secretary general, António Guterres, welcomed a “critical step forward” towards reviving Ukrainian grain exports .
He did, however, also caution that “more technical work will now be needed to materialise today’s progress”.
“Today is an important and substantive step, a step on the way to a comprehensive agreement.”
Ukraine and Russia had shown they could talk, but “for peace we still have a long way to go,” the UN chief told reporters in New York.
Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Pyotr Ilyichev, head of the international organisations department at Russia’s foreign ministry, as saying Russia still wanted to control and inspect vessels itself to rule out arms smuggling.
Both Ukraine or Russia are among the world’s largest grain exporters.
More than 25million tonnes of Ukrainian grain are stuck in silos at the Black Sea port of Odesa and dozens of ships have been stranded due to Russia’s blockade, part of what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine but which Kyiv and the west say is an unjustified war of aggression.
The talks, in Istanbul between Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and UN officials, took place behind closed doors at an undisclosed location.
Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for Russia’s defence ministry, said Moscow had put forward proposals to resolve the grain issue as soon as possible.
Turkey published a photograph of the meeting showing the Russian and Ukrainian delegations sitting opposite each other looking stony-faced.
Apart from being major global wheat suppliers, Russia is also a large fertiliser exporter and Ukraine a significant producer of corn and sunflower oil.
Clinching a deal to unblock exports is seen as vital for food security, notably among developing nations, and for stabilising markets.