Guterres to meet Zelenskiy, Erdogan, with focus on grain, power plant

This combination of pictures shows (L-R) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as he holds a press conference in Kyiv on June 16, 2022; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he speaks during a signature ceremony of an initiative on the safe transportation of grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports in Istanbul on July 22, 2022; and UN Secretary-General António Guterres as he attends a press conference at a hotel in Hiroshima on Aug 6, 2022. They will meet in Ukraine on Aug 18, 2022, the United Nations announced. (OZAN KOSE, LUDOVIC MARIN, PHILIP FONG / AFP)

LVIV, Ukraine – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ukraine on Thursday, with grain exports and concerns about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to top the agenda.

The trilateral meeting marks Erdogan's first in-person discussion with Zelensky since the start of Russia's special military operation in Ukraine on Feb 24. The Turkish leader has met Russian President Vladimir Putin twice in recent months.

The three leaders will hold a joint news conference after their meetings in Lviv, an important transit point for Ukrainian refugees heading west to Europe since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. 

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Three Black Sea ports were unblocked in July under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the UN and Türkiye, making it possible to send hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Ukrainian grain to buyers

Guterres, who arrived in Lviv on Wednesday afternoon, plans to visit on Friday the Black Sea port of Odesa, where grain exports have resumed under a UN-brokered deal aimed at easing a worsening global food crisis.

The following day, he will travel on to the Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul that is made up of Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials overseeing the Black Sea exports of Ukraine grain and fertilizer. 

Three Black Sea ports were unblocked last month under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye, making it possible to send hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Ukrainian grain to buyers.

Erdogan's office said he would address ways to increase exports of grain and steps that could be taken towards ending the war between Ukraine and Russia through diplomatic means.

The Turkish president will also discuss "all aspects" of bilateral relations between Ankara and Kyiv during his meeting with Zelensky, his office said.

Türkiye has criticized the Russian invasion and provided Ukraine with arms, including drones, while refusing to join the West in imposing sanctions on Russia – a stance it says has helped its mediation efforts reap results.

Another key topic will be the worrying situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in eastern Ukraine, which Russian forces took over in the early stages of their special operation in Ukraine. The plant is still being operated by Ukrainian technicians.

Ukraine and Russia blame each other for shelling near the nuclear plant.

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Guterres, who last visited Ukraine in April, this week discussed the conditions for safe functioning of the nuclear plant with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Russian ministry said in a statement. 

The United Nations has said it can help facilitate a visit by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to Zaporizhzhia from Kyiv, but Russia said any mission going through Ukraine's capital was too dangerous.