Shadows hang over ‘beacon of hope in the Black Sea’

  An agreement that UN Secretary-General António Guterres called a “beacon of hope in the Black Sea” was soon overshadowed after it was signed.
  On the afternoon of July 22, local time, witnessed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Russian Defense Minister Shoigu and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Kubrakov “appeared in the same frame” in Istanbul. An identical agreement was signed with the United Nations and Turkey as coordinators, respectively, on the reopening of the Black Sea grain transport route blocked by the escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Shoigu and Kubrakov, however, refused to sign the same document and refused to shake hands. Ukrainian officials said they did not want their names to appear on the same document as Russians because “thousands of people have been killed and millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by this five-month war.”
  This is the first official agreement between the two countries that has been publicly announced since the conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalated in late February this year. If the agreement can be finally implemented, the nearly 22 million tons of wheat, corn and other grains stranded in Ukrainian ports can be transported to many places around the world as soon as possible, which can not only alleviate the food crisis, but also is expected to be a catalyst for Russia and Ukraine to further move towards peace talks.
  But just a day later, the southern Ukrainian port city of Odessa, a fortress on the Black Sea shipping channel, was attacked by Russian missiles. The Russian Ministry of Defense stated on the evening of July 23 that the Russian Aerospace Forces used high-precision long-range air-based missiles that day to destroy the weapons terminal at a military airport in Odessa, where a large number of weapons provided by the United States and Europe to Ukraine were stored, including The “Harpoon” anti-ship missile provided by the United States. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced the attack as Russia undermining the deal that had just been reached. “No matter what the Russian side says or promises, it will find a way not to implement it,” he said when receiving a delegation of visiting U.S. congressmen.
  In order to bring about the signing of the agreement, Turkey and the United Nations worked hard for several months to mediate, and finally settled on July 7. Significant progress was made on the 13th, and a formal agreement was signed with Russia and Ukraine on the 22nd. Although Turkey disclosed the news of the signing to the international community 24 hours in advance, the Russian and Ukrainian officials remained silent until the afternoon of the 22nd. They made it clear that they had sent delegations to participate in the signing ceremony.
  Although the final signing of the agreement is different from the pre-planned direct co-signing of the four parties, which is obviously discounted, all parties including the United Nations still have a positive attitude towards the agreement. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the agreement, even if faced with challenges, would stabilize global food prices and supply more food to developing countries and vulnerable groups in countries on the brink of famine. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who played a key role in the signing of the agreement, also said that Turkey is proud to play an important role in an agreement that will soon resolve the global food crisis.
  After the agreement is signed, a grain export coordination center jointly managed by Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations will be set up in Istanbul to jointly control the port cargo inspection. No weapons were delivered. Details of the agreement also include Ukrainian ships guiding grain ships in and out of mining port waters, and Russia agreeing to a truce while cargoes move. At the same time, Turkey plans to invite non-NATO member countries to clear mines in relevant waters to clear a safe passage for cargo ships.
  This agreement is valid for 4 months, and if the agreement expires and the war is not over, the agreement will be automatically extended. According to the UN plan, the parties hope to restore Ukraine’s grain shipments through the Black Sea to the pre-war level of 5 million tons per month in the next few weeks, and Ukraine’s current grain exports are only six-sixth of the pre-war level. one.
  However, the twists and turns of the agreement signing process has already indicated to a certain extent that the implementation of the agreement is more difficult. There is serious mistrust between Russia and Ukraine, still at war, and any new developments on the battlefield could put the hard-earned deal to a dead end.
  On an operational level, transporting tens of thousands of tons of grain is also a challenge. Even optimistic estimates suggest that Black Sea shipping will take at least a few weeks to recover. To clear a safe waterway that is several kilometers long, it will take as little as ten days to as many as several months just for demining in the waters off the coast of Ukraine.
  After the July 23 attack in Odessa, Guterres issued a statement through a spokesman that day condemning it. He also stressed that Russia, Ukraine and Turkey must fully implement the agreement just reached. The White House said the Odessa attack had raised questions about the agreement and that the United States would continue to explore options with the international community to increase Ukraine’s grain exports by land.