ISTANBUL: The headquarters overseeing exports of Ukrainian grains is set to be unveiled in Istanbul on Wednesday (Jul 27) after a landmark United Nations deal last week, and a senior Turkish official said the first ship is likely to depart Black Sea ports in a few days.
Russia and Ukraine signed the deal on Friday, brokered by Ankara and the UN, to reopen grain and fertiliser exports that have been blocked by war to ease an international food crisis.
The joint coordination centre (JCC) in Istanbul will oversee departures from three Ukrainian ports in which ships must circumvent mines, and will conduct inspections of incoming ships for weapons. All vessels pass through Turkish waters.
A Turkish official said all the details had been worked out, including a safe route for ships that will not require the clearing of sea mines.
"It will not take more than a few days. It looks like the first grains will be loaded this week and its export from Ukraine will take place," said the official, who requested anonymity.
The deal was almost immediately thrown into jeopardy after Russia fired cruise missiles on the port of Odesa, Ukraine's largest, on Saturday morning, just 12 hours after the signing ceremony in Istanbul.
But both Moscow and Kyiv have said they will push forward with the agreement - the first major diplomatic breakthrough in the conflict, now in its sixth month.
All parties will appoint representatives at the JCC to monitor the implementation of the plan.
Ukraine and Russia accounted for around a third of global wheat exports before Russia's Feb 24 invasion of its neighbour.