Ship sail

Ship carrying first cargo of Ukrainian grain approaches Syria

BEIRUT, Aug 14 (Reuters) – The first ship to leave Ukraine under a deal to resume the country’s grain exports two weeks ago approached the Syrian port of Tartous on Sunday, officials said. two marine sources, after the vessel sailed with its transponder turned off.

The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni left the Ukrainian port of Odessa on August 1 as part of the UN-brokered Moscow-Kyiv deal with Turkey, but her location was unclear the last few days without the transponder.

The shipment of 26,000 tonnes of maize was originally destined for Lebanon, which is suffering from an economic crisis that has plunged around half of its population into food insecurity.

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However, the original buyer refused delivery for quality reasons and the ship sailed to Turkey, docking at Mersin on August 11.

When he leaves the next day, he does not keep his transponder on. Two maritime sources, including one in Tartous, confirmed to Reuters on Sunday that the ship was approaching the port in northwestern Syria.

Ukraine has previously accused Syria of importing at least 150,000 tonnes of grain which it says was looted from Ukrainian warehouses after the Russian invasion in February. Russia has denied stealing Ukrainian grain.

Ukraine severed diplomatic ties with Syria in June after Damascus recognized the independence of the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Lebanon sent a statement from the Ministry of Transport to Reuters, which said it was “not responsible for the ship and the cargo after it left Ukraine, moreover after departure of the vessel from (a) foreign port”.

“Our task has been to reopen the seaports for grain cargo and that has been done,” the statement said, adding that it had no information on the position of the vessel or the destination of the cargo.

Meanwhile, the UN-chartered ship Brave Commander will leave Ukraine for Ethiopia in the coming days, a UN official said. This will be the first shipment of humanitarian food aid to Africa since Russia sent troops to Ukraine and under the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Read more

And the first ship carrying Ukrainian wheat to be exported under the deal arrived in Istanbul on Sunday, the Joint Coordination Center based in the Turkish city said. Read more

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Reporting by Maya Gebeily, Jonathan Saul and Yoruk Isik; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, David Goodman and Alison Williams

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