ADDS REACTION BY NATO CHIEF, EU
By Diyar Guldogan
ANKARA (AA) - The first ship to leave Ukraine under a historic grain export deal departed on Monday from the port of Odesa for Lebanon, the Turkish National Defense Ministry announced.
"The ship is expected to arrive in Istanbul on Aug. 2," the ministry said in a statement, adding that the vessel would continue on its way following inspections in the Turkish metropolis.
Loaded with corn, the Sierra Leone-flagged dry cargo ship Razoni is on course for its final destination of the port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Monday announced that the ship will anchor off the coast of Istanbul around 1200GMT on Tuesday for a joint inspection.
Türkiye, the UN, Russia and Ukraine signed a deal on July 22 to reopen three Ukrainian ports -- Odesa, Chernomorsk, and Yuzhny -- for grain that has been stuck for months because of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which is now in its sixth month.
To oversee Ukrainian grain exports, a joint coordination center in Istanbul was officially opened on Wednesday, comprising representatives from Türkiye, the UN, Russia, and Ukraine to enable the safe transportation, by merchant ships, of commercial foodstuffs and fertilizers from the three key Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
- Fist shipment welcomed
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "warmly" welcomed the Razoni's departure.
"The ship is bound for the port of Tripoli, Lebanon, carrying a cargo of 26,527 tonnes of corn, and is the first vessel to depart under the Black Sea Grain Initiative signed in Istanbul, on 22 July. Ensuring that existing grain and foodstuffs can move to global markets is a humanitarian imperative," said a UN statement by Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
It added that this departure was the collective achievement of the joint coordination center in Istanbul.
According to the statement, Guterres also hailed Türkiye for its leadership, adding: "The Secretary-General 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."
Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter that the first grain ship has left, adding: "Thanks to the support of all our partner countries & @UN we were able to full implement the Agreement signed in Istanbul."
Russia, for its part, said the first grain ship to leave Odesa was "very positive" news.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he hoped the agreement would be implemented by all sides.
"This is a good opportunity to test the implementation of the agreements that were agreed upon at the Istanbul talks," Peskov said.
NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg also hailed the shipment on Twitter, thanking "our Ally Türkiye for its pivotal role."
NATO Allies strongly support the full implementation of the deal to ease the global food crisis caused by Russia's war in Ukraine," Stoltenberg added.
The EU likewise welcomed the shipment, saying on Twitter that it was the "first step towards mitigating the global food crisis, enhanced by Russia's illegitimate aggression of Ukraine."
It also said the bloc was looking forward to the deal's implementation.
*Merve Aydogan contributed to this story