By Cecilia Ologunagba
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday welcomed the departure of the first ship from the Ukrainian port of Odesa, carrying grain under the landmark deal signed by Ukraine, Russia and Türkiye, overseen by the UN.
The Razoni, carrying a cargo of 26,527 tonnes of corn, is the first cargo ship to leave a Ukrainian Black Sea port since Feb. 26, just a few days after the Russian invasion began.
It is bound for the Mediterranean port of Tripoli in Lebanon.
In a statement issued by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Guterres said that ensuring “existing grain and foodstuffs can move to global markets is a humanitarian imperative.”
The deal dubbed a “beacon of hope” by Guterres when it was signed in the Turkish city of Istanbul on July 22, is a “collective achievement” of the newly-established Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) set up in Istanbul.
It was set up under the auspices of the UN, by representatives from the three governments who inked the deal, known officially as the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
In a statement, the JCC said it had agreed the specific coordinates and restrictions for what it termed the Safe Humanitarian Maritime Corridor, and has communicated those details in accordance with international navigation procedures.
“The JCC has requested all its participants to inform their respective military and other relevant authorities of this decision to ensure the safe passage of the vessel.”
The plan also paves the way for Russian food and fertiliser to reach global markets, all of which it is hoped will help reduce soaring food prices worldwide, and avert the possibility of famine afflicting millions in the months ahead.
Since the deal was signed, the parties involved “have been working tirelessly” to begin the process of shipping grain and cereals out from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
“The Secretary-General salutes their efforts, and he is grateful to Türkiye for its leadership,” the statement said, just after the vessel left port.
“Guterres hopes that this will be the first of many commercial ships moving in accordance with the Initiative signed, and that this will bring much-needed stability and relief to global food security especially in the most fragile humanitarian contexts.”
The UN emergency food agency, WFP, which is a major customer of Ukraine’s grain and cereals, was planning to buy, load and ship an initial 30,000 tonnes of wheat from Ukraine, on a UN-chartered vessel.
Addressing correspondents at UN Headquarters in New York on the shipment, Guterres said the ship was loaded with two commodities in short supply, “corn, and hope.”
“People on the verge of famine need these agreements to work, in order to survive. Countries on the verge of bankruptcy need these agreements to work, in order to keep their economies alive.”
While the “tragic war continues to rage”, the UN chief said, the UN would continue working every day to bring relief to the people of Ukraine, and to those suffering the effects of the conflict around the world.
He said that the war must end, and peace must be established, in line with the Charter of the United Nations and international law.
“I hope today’s news can be a step towards that goal, for the people of Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and for the world.” (NAN)
edited by Sadiya Hamza