Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish military delegations are set to meet UN officials in Istanbul on Wednesday (today) for talks on a possible deal to resume safe exports of Ukraine grain from the major Black Sea port of Odesa as a global food crisis worsens.
Turkey has been working with the United Nations to broker a deal after Russia's 24 February invasion of Ukraine fuelled prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser. Turkish defence minister Hulusi Akar announced the latest talks on Tuesday.
"We are working hard indeed but there is still a way to go," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Tuesday. "Many people are talking about it. We prefer to try and do it."
Diplomats say details of the plan under discussion include Ukrainian vessels guiding grain ships in and out through mined port waters; Russia agreeing to a truce while shipments move; and Turkey - supported by the United Nations - inspecting ships to allay Russian fears of weapons smuggling.
Ukraine sparked hopes on Tuesday for an increase in grain exports despite Russia's blockade of Black Sea ports, noting that ships had started to pass through an important mouth of the Danube river.
Ukraine and Russia are major global wheat suppliers, and Russia is also a large fertiliser exporter, while Ukraine is a significant producer of corn and sunflower oil.
Russia's invasion and sea blockade of Ukraine has stalled exports, leaving dozens of ships stranded and more than 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos at Odesa.
The coming harvest is also at risk as Ukraine is now short of storage space due to the halt in exports.