ANKARA/ISTANBUL: A team of inspectors in Turkey on Friday began checking an empty cargo ship before it heads off to collect grain from the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk under a deal to restart Ukrainian grain exports, the Turkish Defense Ministry said.
The ministry published photos on Twitter showing the inspection team boarding a boat to head out to the Barbados-flagged general cargo ship Fulmar S, which was at anchor in the Black Sea just to the north of Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait.
Vessels to load Ukrainian grain are being inspected by Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN personnel who are working at a Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul.
Three ships carrying a total of 58,041 tons of corn have been authorized to leave Ukrainian ports on Friday, as a Russian offensive forced Ukraine to cede territory in the east.
The first vessel carrying Ukrainian grain allowed to leave port since the start of the war left Odesa on Monday bound for Lebanon, under a safe passage deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations.
Three more ships filled with grain will sail from Ukraine on Friday under a UN-backed deal lifting Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea, Turkey’s defense minister said.
“It is planned that three ships will set sail tomorrow from Ukraine,” the Anadolu state news agency quoted Defense Minister Hulusi Akar as saying, one day after the first ship passed Istanbul on its way to Lebanon.
Ankara also announced that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed the agreement’s implementation by phone with UN chief Antonio Guterres, without disclosing further details.
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Moscow and Kyiv agreed in Istanbul last month to resume shipments of wheat and other grain from Ukrainian ports for the first time since Russia invaded its neighbor in February.The first ship, loaded with 26,000 tons of maize, set off from Odessa on Monday for the Lebanese port of Tripoli.It was cleared for passage through the Bosphorus Strait by a team that included Russian and Ukrainian inspectors on Wednesday.The ship’s passage is being overseen by an international team that includes officials from Turkey, the United Nations and the two warring parties.The team said in a statement that the first ship’s successful passage offered “proof of concept” that the agreement can hold.Ukraine said earlier this week that it has 16 more ships loaded with grain and ready to set sail.Russia and Ukraine are major suppliers of wheat and other grain.The halt of almost all deliveries from Ukraine has sent global food prices soaring, making imports prohibitively expensive for some of the poorest nations of the world.