BUCHAREST, Romania -- Ukraine and neighboring Romania signed an agreement Friday to work together to boost Kyiv's export of grain through Romania after Moscow broke off a key wartime shipping agreement that allowed safe passage through the Black Sea. As a result, Kyiv has sought to reroute transport through the Danube and road and rail links into Europe.
The accord was signed during a trip by Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal to the Romanian capital, Bucharest, for talks with his Romanian counterpart Marcel Ciolacu.
The two leaders discussed ways to ramp up the war-torn nation's key grain exports, and improve infrastructure for transportation across river, rail, road, and sea, including at border crossings. Ukraine's economy is heavily dependent on farming, and its grain is crucial for world supplies of wheat, barley and sunflower oil.
Ciolacu told a news conference after the meeting that he hopes Romania can transport more than 60% of Ukraine's grain exports.
He also noted the "ambitious" target to double the transport of Ukrainian grain through Romania that was set last week during a meeting that included Western and Ukrainian officials in Romania's Danube River town of Galati. Romania intends to double the amount from 2 million to 4 million tons per month, but Ciolacu did not specify a timeframe for the increase.
"I emphasized the importance of collaboration between our countries as well as with our international partners," he said.
The Romanian leader added that the Black Sea port of Constanta will remain a key transport route for getting Ukraine's goods to the international market. The Sulina Channel, an arm of the Danube River on what is Europe's second-longest river and a key transport route, will also play a role.
The bilateral meeting comes amid weeks of Russian strikes on Ukraine's grain storage and port facilities along the Danube River.
For his part, Shmyhal said that the two neighbors will aim to streamline border controls at crossing points to facilitate the smoother transport of goods. "We discussed improving the transport infrastructure destroyed by Russia," he said.
Ciolacu added: "We will stand by Ukraine as long as it takes."