The United Nations said Tuesday that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet Thursday in western Ukraine with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the invitation to the tripartite meeting was made by Zelenskyy.
The leaders represent three of the four members in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Russia is the fourth member. The deal, signed in Istanbul on July 22, has allowed for the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports to the international market, while removing some obstacles to the sale of Russian fertilizer and food stuffs.
Some 20 million metric tons of Ukrainian grain has been stuck in silos and on about two dozen ships in the country’s southern ports since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
The situation has driven up the price of food on global markets at a time when the World Food Program warns that a record 345 million people in 82 countries are now facing acute food insecurity, while up to 50 million people in 45 countries are on the brink of famine. Before the war, Ukrainian food exports fed an estimated 400 million people worldwide.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative has been working smoothly since the Joint Coordination Center that oversees the operation went online on July 27. Since then, the JCC has authorized 21 vessels to leave Ukraine’s southern ports of Odesa, Chernomorsk and Pivdennyi (also known as Yuzhny) carrying 563,317 metric tons of grain and other foodstuffs. Fifteen more ships have been cleared to enter the ports to pick up food cargo. They are moving through a maritime humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea.
On Friday, Guterres will go to the port of Odesa to see the operation in action. Then he will travel to Istanbul where he will visit the JCC on Saturday.
Dujarric said the U.N. chief will have a bilateral meeting with Zelenskyy, during which a number of issues are likely to be raised, including the need for a political solution to the conflict and the urgent need for a technical mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency to go to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. That facility is in currently Russian-controlled territory and has been the subject of shelling in recent weeks, which the IAEA says risks a “nuclear catastrophe.”
Moscow has accused the U.N. secretariat of blocking the visit, an accusation the U.N. denies.
“On the power plant, there’s been no change, though, in our position as stated yesterday that we are there to support the IAEA’s implementation of its mandate,” Dujarric told reporters. “We are ready to support it logistically and security-wise from Kyiv."