ISTANBUL - Preparations are continuing for the first ships to leave Ukrainian ports under a landmark U.N. deal to export Ukrainian grains, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday as he unveiled a centre in Istanbul to oversee the exports.

Akar said the goal of the monitoring centre in Istanbul was to ensure the safe shipment of grains from three Ukrainian ports, with more than 25 million tonnes of grain waiting there.

(Reporting by Can Sezer, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Writing by Daren Butler)