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Three more ships loaded with grain to sail from Ukraine on Friday

Picture taken on August 4, 2022 shows a view of the stern of the grain-laden Syrian-flagged cargo ship Laodicea as it is being towed by a tugboat in Lebanon's northern port of Tripoli. (Photo by AFP)

Three more ships carrying grain supplies are to set sail from Ukrainian ports on Friday under a deal between Russia and Ukraine, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations.

"It is planned that three [more] ships will set sail tomorrow from Ukraine," Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday.

Turkey shares a sea border with both Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea.

Moscow and Kiev agreed in Istanbul last month to resume shipments of wheat and other grains from Ukrainian ports for the first time since Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine on February 24.

On Monday, the first ship, loaded with 26,000 tons of maize, set off from the Ukrainian port city of Odessa for the Lebanese port of Tripoli.

The grain export process is being monitored by an international team hailing from the UN, Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia.

Under the deal, the vessels are inspected near Istanbul before heading to their designated destinations.

Kiev says at least 16 more grain ships are waiting to depart.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to push for direct ceasefire negotiations between Moscow and Kiev on Friday, when he meets his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Russian leader's Black Sea resort in Sochi on Friday.

"We discussed if the grain agreement can be an occasion for a sustainable ceasefire," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after meeting Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Cambodia on Wednesday.

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