BY DAILY SABAH WITH AA
More than 12 million tons of grain have been transported by 501 ships through the “grain corridor” created through Türkiye’s efforts to eliminate the risk of a “food crisis” caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
As a result of Ankara’s intense diplomacy traffic, a Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) was established in Istanbul in coordination with the United Nations last July to follow the safe transfer of grain products.
Accordingly, the first ship loaded with grain departed from Odessa’s port on Aug. 1, thanks to the meetings of National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar with the relevant parties and the intensive work of the JCC.
The Sierra Leone-flagged dry cargo ship Razoni, which is the first ship to leave the Ukrainian ports within the scope of the agreement covering 120 days, sailed toward the Lebanese Tripoli Port with 26,000 tons of corn.
Four days after Razoni’s departure, three ships, namely the Panama-flagged Navistar Ireland, Maltese-flagged Rojen and Italian-Turkish ship Polarnet left the ports of Odessa and Chernomorsk with approximately 60,000 tons of grain.
Following these, the ships named Mustafa Necati, Star Helena, Glory, Riva Wind, Sacura, Arizona, Ocean Lion, Rahmi Yağcı and Sormovskiy 121 set sail from the war-shadowed country’s ports, and the number of ships leaving reached 17 as of Aug. 13. Most of the ships reached ports in Türkiye such as Tekirdağ, Iskenderun and Izmir.
Within two weeks after the departure of the first ship, the number of ships leaving Ukrainian ports reached 25 and the amount of grain transported exceeded 800,000 tons.
The agreement, which was reached as a result of the efforts to prevent a food crisis around the world, included not only the departure of the ships from the Ukrainian ports but also the shipment of grain to the Ukrainian ports by the ships controlled in Istanbul. Accordingly, the first ship to go to Ukraine after being controlled from the Bosporus was the Barbados-flagged Fulmar S. The ship picked up 12,000 tons of corn from the Chernomorsk Port and transported it to Türkiye’s Izmir.
While the grain shipments continued, Russia informed the U.N. and Turkish authorities on Oct. 29 that the grain initiative was temporarily halted due to what it said were the attacks in Russian-occupied and controlled Sevastopol. Thereupon, the exit of ships from Ukrainian ports was stopped.
Türkiye immediately took action to prevent the further deepening of the crisis. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held phone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy regarding the issue.
In line with the instructions of Erdoğan, who carries out “leadership diplomacy,” Akar also worked hard to keep the grain corridor open.
Akar, who is in close contact with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, emphasized that, “The grain initiative is beneficial for all parties, and its disruption will cause problems for all parties.”
‘Red line’ diplomacy
Within the scope of the efforts to solve the grain crisis, the “red line” diplomacy, which was implemented in May, was reactivated upon the instruction of Akar in this process.
Officials of the National Defense Ministry held talks with the military officials of Ukraine and Russia on the extension of the agreement over this line.
After telephone diplomacy and intense talks, military delegations of Türkiye, Ukraine, Russia and U.N. representatives came together at Kalender Pavilion, where the foundations of the grain corridor were laid.
Two days before the validity of the agreement, Erdoğan announced to the public that “it was decided to extend the agreement for 120 days” as a result of the positive talks.
Thus, within the scope of the ongoing shipment, the number of ships leaving the Ukrainian ports reached 501 as of Nov. 28 and the number of grain products such as wheat, corn and barley shipped exceeded 12 million tons.
More than 200 of the ships leaving the Ukrainian ports with grain cargo have been transferred to the designated ports.