UN sees progress in talks to free up Ukraine grain exports

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during his interview to The Associated Press in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, July 12, 2022. Ukraine's foreign minister says grain exports from his country's ports won't resume without security guarantees for ship owners, cargo owners and Ukraine as an independent nation.Military officials from Russia and Ukraine were set to hold their governments' first face-to-face talks in months Wednesday during a session in Istanbul devoted to a United Nations plan to export blocked Ukrainian grain to world markets through the Black Sea. (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko)

ISTANBUL (AP) - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the first meeting in weeks between Russia and Ukraine took "a critical step" forward Wednesday to ensuring the export of desperately needed grain from Ukraine's Black Sea ports to help ease the global food crisis.

Turkey's defense minister said agreements would be signed when negotiators meet again in Istanbul next week.

The U.N. chief cautioned that "more technical work will now be needed" to reach an agreement, "but the momentum is clear I'm encouraged. I'm optimistic, but it's not yet fully done."

With the war in Ukraine in its fifth month and much of the world seeing food prices soar and millions in developing countries facing hunger and possible starvation, getting grain and fertilizer shipments moving again from two of the world's major exporters is crucial.