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Secretary-General's remarks to the Press at the Joint Coordination Centre for the Black Sea Grain Initiative [including Q & A]

Press Release
Istanbul, Turkey - 20 August 2022

It is good to be back in Istanbul and I thank Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar and the Government of Türkiye for your warm welcome. 

I thank you even more for your pivotal role in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

At the heart of this initiative is the Joint Coordination Centre which enables the safe movement of dozens of commercial vessels.

Every member of the delegations represented at the JCC – Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and United Nations – have been working with dedication and professionalism bringing their unique skills and passion to support this essential work. 

They embody what we can achieve with political will, top operational expertise, and collective effort.

I would like to especially recognize our acting coordinator of the UN team Frederick Kenney for his dedication and hard work on this Initiative.  And I welcome, Amir Abdulla, whom I have appointed as Coordinator to lead the UN team. He brings decades of expertise in complex humanitarian operations.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the media,

More than 650,000 metric tons of grain and other food are already on their way to markets around the world.

I just came back from the Marmara Sea where Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and United Nations teams are conducting joint inspections on the vessels passing through the Black Sea on their way in or out of the Ukrainian ports.

What a remarkable and inspiring operation.

I just saw a World Food Progamme-chartered vessel – Brave Commander - which is waiting to sail to the horn of Africa to bring urgently needed relief to those suffering from acute hunger.

Just yesterday, I was in Odesa port and saw first-hand the loading on a cargo of wheat onto a ship.

I was so moved watching the wheat fill up the hold of the ship.

It was the loading of hope for so many around the world.

But let’s not forget that what we see here in Istanbul and in Odesa is only the more visible part of the solution.

The other part of this package deal is the unimpeded access to the global markets of Russian food and fertilizer, which are not subject to sanctions.

It is important that all governments and the private sector cooperate to bring them to market.

Without fertilizer in 2022, there may not be enough food in 2023.

Getting more food and fertilizer out of Ukraine and Russia is critical to further calm commodity markets and lower prices for consumers

We are at the beginning of a much longer process, but you have already shown the potential of this critical agreement for the world. 

And so, I am here with a message of congratulations for all those in the Joint Coordination Centre and a plea for that vital life-saving work to continue. 

You can count on the full commitment of the United Nations to support you. 

Thank you.  


Question:  What are your observations of today and will this be [inaudible] ceasefire agreement?

Secretary-General: First of all, as you can imagine, I was deeply moved, deeply moved, when I saw the World Food Programme’s ship that is heading to the Horn of Africa. I was deeply moved when I saw another ship, the largest until now involved in this operation, being prepared to cross the Bosphorus and I felt that this is work of enormous importance for humanity. Now, we always believe that hope is the last thing one can lose and obviously, I have hope that the most important value for humanity, that is peace, will also come to this part of the world. Peace, that for us, in the UN, is always linked to the UN Charter and International Law. And so, my hope, is that this extraordinary spirit of commitment that we have seen in the JCC will [result] in a complex, I am sure, lengthy, process in which we all would like to see peace, triumphing.

Question: Russia’s Foreign Ministry keeps on repeating that Moscow hopes that the UN will make all necessary efforts to remove the remaining sanctions on Russian food and fertilizer. Can you please, Mr. Guterres, kindly explain what these restrictions are and what the UN is doing to remove them?

Secretary-General: As I have been saying time and time again, it has been made clear by the countries that have applied sanctions that they do not apply to food and fertilizers. But of course, there is a chilling effect in the private sector and there are a certain number of obstacles and difficulties that need to be overcome in relation to shipping, in relation to insurance and in relation to finance.  And I can tell you that we are working hard in cooperation with the U.S. and the E.U. in order to be able to remove those obstacles and to allow for what we consider is extremely important for the people, especially in the developing countries.