By Cecilia Ologunagba
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has welcomed the official start of the operation of a new centre to put Ukraine grain exports deal into motion.
The centre, based in the Turkish capital, Istanbul, will help implement the UN-brokered deal to resume exports of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea, amid the ongoing conflict and rising food prices worldwide.
The Joint Coordination Centre (JCC), inaugurated on Wednesday, brings together senior representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Türkiye and the UN.
The secretary-general has underscored the importance of the parties working in partnership directly to effectively implement the Black Sea Grain Initiative, with a view to reducing global food insecurity, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said in a statement.
Ukraine, Russia and Türkiye signed the agreement in Istanbul on Friday.
The JCC will enable the safe transportation, by merchant ships, of commercial foodstuffs and fertiliser from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea: Odesa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhny.
“This will help to effectively respond to and prevent rising global food insecurity,’’ Haq said.
“Together with the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Federation and the Secretariat of the UN on promoting the access of Russian food products and fertilisers to world markets.
“It will help reinstate confidence in the global food market and reduce food prices from their current levels,” he added.
The JCC will monitor the movement of commercial vessels to ensure compliance with the agreement. Focus will be on export of bulk commercial grain and related food commodities only.
It will also ensure the on-site control and monitoring of cargo from Ukrainian ports and report on shipments facilitated through the Initiative.
The secretary-general expressed gratitude to Türkiye, which provided the parties and the UN with a platform to help operationalise the Initiative.
He also thanked Russia and Ukraine for nominating and quickly sending their senior representatives to Istanbul.
The top UN aid official also welcomed the JCC’s launch.
Martin Griffiths, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, noted that the centre’s swift opening was made possible through the invaluable support of Türkiye, and the commitment shown by Russia and Ukraine.
“I am hopeful that their swift collective action will translate quickly and directly into much-needed relief for the most vulnerable food insecure people around the world,” Griffiths said.
The UN’s interim representative at the JCC, Frederick Kenney, attended the inauguration ceremony and is leading the organisation’s efforts on the ground.
“It is extremely encouraging to see the parties focusing on implementing the initiative.
“Work at the centre is non-stop with the aim to see the first shipments heading out of Ukrainian ports quickly, safely and effectively,” he said. (NAN)