Russia and Ukraine have today (Friday, July 22) signed a deal allowing for grain to be exported from Black Sea ports.

The agreement followed months of intensive talks brokered by the United Nations (UN) and Turkey.

The deal will open a pathway for significant volumes of commercial food exports from three key Ukrainian ports: Odesa; Chernomorsk; and Yuzhny.

The ports have been blockaded by Russia forces as part of the ongoing war resulting in tens of millions of tonnes of grain unable to be exported.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres hailed the move as “a beacon of hope, possibility and relief”.

“You have overcome obstacles and put aside differences to pave the way for an initiative that will serve the common interests of all,” he told representatives from Russia and Ukraine.

“Promoting the welfare of humanity has been the driving force of these talks.

“The question has not been what is good for one side or the other. The focus has been on what matters most for the people of our world.

“And let there be no doubt – this is an agreement for the world,” he continued.

“It will bring relief for developing countries on the edge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine.

“And it will help stabilise global food prices which were already at record levels even before the war – a true nightmare for developing countries,” Guterres said.

He paid tribute to the Turkish government for their work on facilitating the talks which began in April.

The UN chief acknowledged that “this agreement did not come easy”.

“It took immense efforts and commitment by all sides and weeks of around-the-clock negotiations.

“This initiative must be fully implemented, because the world so desperately needs it to tackle the global food crisis,” he said.

“This is an unprecedented agreement between two parties engaged in bloody conflict. But that conflict continues. People are dying every day. Fighting is raging every day,” Guterres noted.

The deal is expected to become operational in the coming weeks.

The UN announced today that it will establish a joint coordination centre to monitor implementation of the Black Sea initiative.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael MEP Colm Markey said that the agreement between Russia and Ukraine “offers hope that a global hunger crisis can be averted”.

The Midlands North-West MEP is a member of the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

“I await the full details of the agreement but the priority right now should be on delivering grain and fertiliser to the world’s poorest countries, some of which are already on the brink of famine.

“Although today’s news is welcome, we must not forget that it was Russia who weaponised food in this brutal war,” he added.

“We also need to learn lessons from the crisis and reaffirm our commitment to fight global food insecurity,” Markey said.