The United Nations (UN) secretary-general has said that a deal allowing for the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine could be signed next week.

Antonio Guterres described progress between Russia and Ukraine during UN-brokered talks in Turkey on Wednesday (July 13) as a “ray of hope”.

He said that a “critical step forward” had been taken to allow the “safe and secure export” of millions of tonnes of grain via the Black Sea.

However, Guterres noted that the war rages on and emphasised that no formal agreement has yet been signed between Russia and Ukraine.

“In a world darkened by global crises, today, at last, we have a ray of hope”, Guterres told journalists at UN headquarters in New York.

“A ray of hope to ease human suffering and alleviate hunger around the world. A ray of hope to support developing countries and the most vulnerable people. A ray of hope to bring a measure of much-needed stability to the global food system.”

“Since the war started, I have been underlining the importance of having Ukraine’s food products and Russian food and fertiliser fully available in world markets,” the UN chief said.

“In the end, the aim of all parties is not just an agreement between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, but an agreement for the world,” he added.

Guterres thanked Turkey for it’s “outstanding efforts” convening the talks and saluted all participants for their work “to secure an agreement for our common humanity”.

He said that he hoped the first meeting in Istanbul would lead to another, “very soon”, potentially next week.

The UN chief said that there was still “a long way to go” when it comes to the wider possibility of a peace deal between the countries.

He also noted that more needs to be done for people who are struggling in developing countries due to “a food, energy and financial crises not of their making”.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, there have been major increases in the price of grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser, along with global supply chain issues.

Much of the grain imported by developing countries comes from Ukraine, but since the invasion, the country’s Black Sea ports have been blockaded by Russia, including the crucial hub of Odessa.