Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN signed agreements in Istanbul on the export of agricultural products and Russian fertilizers from ports on the Black Sea. Ukrainian media have already published the text of the agreement between Ukraine, Turkey and the UN.
In response to grain exports from Ukraine, the collective West agreed to supply Russian fertilizers. Moreover, there was even a separate clause for ammonia.
"Divorce and Maiden Name"
In fact, we are talking about three separate documents, two agreements on grain exports and one memorandum between Russia and the UN.
To begin with, Ukraine and Russia each separately signed two different documents: an “initiative” on the export of grain, food and fertilizers between Ukraine, Turkey and the UN, signed by Infrastructure Minister Alexander Kubrakov on behalf of Ukraine, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on behalf of Turkey and UN Secretary General António Guterres, and a separate agreement between Russia, Turkey and the UN, signed by Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Immediately afterwards, Shoigu and Guterres signed a Memorandum of Cooperation between Russia and the UN on the supply of Russian agricultural products and fertilizers to world markets.
The Ukrainian media have already published the text of the agreement between Ukraine, Turkey and the UN. As for the status of the document, it is an intergovernmental agreement, because this text does not require ratification by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
There are its main points. The first issue is security. The Ukrainian version deals with grain exports from ports such as Odessa, Chernomorsk, and Yuzhny (the latter two are located in the Odessa Region). Due to the hostilities in Ukraine, Odessa and other Ukrainian ports are mined but the agreement says nothing about preliminary demining. It turns out that foreign importers were guaranteed free exit from Ukrainian ports, and the rest of the issues are to be “settled any way you like.”
However, there is also a safety point. If necessary, the minesweeper of another country can enter Ukrainian ports and clear the water area of mines. The problem is that this option must be agreed upon by all parties: Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN.
According to the agreement, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey undertake not to attack “merchant and other civil vessels and port facilities taking part in this Initiative.” At the same time, such merchant ships will pass through the route without any military escort.
Question number two is the route. For the passage of ships there will be a maritime humanitarian corridor, agreed by all parties, which will control their movement through it remotely. The Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul will determine the distance. No military ship, aircraft or UAV has the right to approach the maritime humanitarian corridor closer than the Joint Coordination Center allows.
Question number 3 is the oversight of the agreement. A coordination structure should be created before transportation begins. According to the document, this structure will be called the Joint Coordination Center (JCC), which will include representatives of Ukraine, the Russian Federation, Turkey and the United Nations. The JCC will be located in Istanbul and will coordinate and supervise the implementation of the agreement.
In addition, Turkey will identify specific harbors at the entrance and exit of the Bosphorus Strait where all ships registered in the JCC are required to enter in order for the inspection team to conduct an inspection.
The term of the agreement is 120 days from the date of signing. In practice, the countdown will start from 00:00 hours on Saturday, July 23. The agreement is automatically extended indefinitely until one of the parties withdraws from the agreement.
There is Always Room for Ammonia
How will the parties verify that the cargoes on the ships comply with the requirements of the agreement? Under the auspices of the JCC, there will be inspection teams consisting of representatives from Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, as well as the UN. The mandate of the inspection team is to check each vessel for unauthorized cargo or people. The inspection teams will check the agreed vessels both at the entrance to the ports and at the exit from the ports.
Although Ukraine and Russia each separately signed an agreement with Turkey and the United Nations, there is a common clause indicating that there is always room for compromise in life. The parties proclaimed that the goal of the agreement was to create safe navigation for the export of grain and related foodstuffs and fertilizers, including ammonia.
Since when did Ukraine start producing ammonia? The agricultural fertilizer industry in Ukraine is “on the beam ends.” If we remember that Odessa is the terminus of the Tolyatti-Odessa pipeline, designed to pump ammonia from Russia through Ukraine to the Black Sea coast, then much becomes clear.
Britain's The Guardian quoted its sources as saying that UN officials hope to begin grain/sunflower oil shipments from Black Sea ports beginning Saturday, July 23. According to The Guardian, the UN expects supplies to reach 5 million tons of grain per month, i.e. to reach the prewar level.
As for Russian exports, the deal aims to provide conditions for unimpeded supplies of fertilizers made in Russia. In this case, the Kremlin managed to trade an agreement on grain exports from Ukrainian ports for the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Russian mineral and organic fertilizers, as well as drugs, software updates for medical equipment, etc. There is another intrigue: did the Russian delegation manage to agree that the agreement would allow exports from ports such as Berdyansk and Mariupol?
Surprisingly, attempts to peacefully resolve the conflict in Donbass did not help the Kremlin to stop the Western sanctions policy. On the contrary, it may seem paradoxical, but Moscow, with the help of special military operation, succeeded in having some of the U.S. sanctions against Russia lifted.
Good Beginning is Half Battle
Meanwhile, the volume of grain blocked in Ukrainian ports is still an open question. U.S. President Joe Biden repeatedly mentioned the figure of 20 million tons of grain but Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, denied such estimates.
“According to our Ministry of Agriculture, it's not six but about five million tons,” Putin said in an interview with the Rossiya TV channel. On the other hand, it is not so important how much grain American companies can take from Ukraine today, 5 or 20 million tons. It is important to unblock exports in principle. And then, the agreement on the export of agro-industrial products will also be in effect in 2023.
No matter how much one would like it, but with time there will be still a question of the moral evaluation of such an agreement. It is obvious that large importers such as Swiss Kernel, American Cargill, Agroprosperis, Archer Daniels Midland, etc are the most interested in exporting grain from Ukraine. Foreign companies have a vested interest in exporting contracted consignments of grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports. However, the snag is that the Ukrainian government, headed by Volodymyr Zelensky, consents to large-scale exports of grain at a time when Ukraine itself is very likely to have a cold and hungry winter.