Russian Minister Lavrov to Discuss Food Crisis with Ankara
Ahead of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit, Ankara made statements that it insisted on a deal to export grain from Ukraine. The Turks offer mine clearance services in Ukrainian ports and escort of ships with wheat and other food products by military convoys.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Ankara has made “significant progress” in negotiations and is coordinating closely with Russia and Ukraine to agree on a plan to resume grain exports from Ukrainian ports, even as conflict continues in other parts of the country.
As reported by the Daily Sabah, Turkey is participating in United Nations efforts to reach an agreement on a plan to open a safe shipping corridor to overcome the global food crisis caused by the Ukrainian crisis, which halted Ukrainian grain exports from Black Sea ports.
Akar's remarks came a day after reports that Ankara and Moscow had reached a preliminary agreement to resume supplies of Ukrainian agricultural products, but Ukraine has not yet approved this plan, the Turkish publication notes.
The problem of blocked grain will be discussed in Wednesday during the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Turkey.
Turkey has reportedly offered military assistance to clear the port of Odessa and escort grain carriers. Kyiv fears that the removal of the mine protection could leave the port of Odessa open to Russian action.
Khulusi Akar said discussions were underway on how mines floating near the port of Odessa and elsewhere along the coast of Ukraine would be cleared. who will do it, and who will guard the corridor for the export of grain.
“We are making efforts to complete this as soon as possible,” the Turkish minister told reporters after a cabinet meeting late Monday night. The parties are ready to resolve the issue, but mutual trust remains a stumbling block, Akar said: “Everyone wants to be sure of certain things. We are working to establish that trust.”
“There has been a lot of progress on this issue” and technical planning is ongoing, the minister said.
Turkey shares maritime borders with Ukraine and Russia and has said it is ready to take on a role in the “monitoring mechanism” if an agreement can be reached. Ankara has proposed the establishment of a center in Istanbul to coordinate and monitor demining efforts and the supply of grain to world markets. This may include Turkish navy escorting tankers leaving Ukraine and heading for the Turkish straits to world markets.
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Vahit Kirishci also said late on Monday that the parties were close to an agreement on a corridor deal. Kirisci also said that Ankara and Kyiv have agreed on a 25 percent discount on grain products that will be purchased in Ukraine, without going into details.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will receive his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov for talks according to this plan on Wednesday. On Monday, Lavrov said he was optimistic that the military could find a solution.
As the Daily Sabah recalls, Western leaders have accused Russia of “blackmailing” the world by blocking Ukrainian ports. Moscow, on the other hand, believes that Western sanctions are to blame for the current situation. Russia and Ukraine account for almost a third of the world's wheat supply, Russia is also a major fertilizer exporter, and Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil. Nearly 25 million tons of grain are stuck in Ukraine awaiting shipment, and as Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday, that figure could triple by autumn. Ukraine exported up to 6 million tons of grain per month before the conflict, but in recent months the volumes have fallen to about 1 million tons. Exports of grains, oilseeds and vegetable oils from Ukraine rose by 80% in May to 1.743 million tons, but volumes are still well below exports in May 2021, the Ukrainian Ministry of Agriculture said on Tuesday.
Zelensky on Monday demanded a safe corridor for Ukrainian courts and said that Kyiv was negotiating with countries such as Turkey and the UK for security guarantees for Ukrainian ships. He also said Kyiv was not ready to agree to a plan to export its grain by rail through Belarus to ship across the Baltic Sea.
Moscow has assured Ankara it will not attack Odessa if the corridor is established, said on Friday Presidential press secretary Ibrahim Kalyn.
Separately, Russia said on Tuesday that two major ports on the Sea of Azov, taken under control by Russian troops, were ready to resume grain shipments, but the Kremlin said that Kyiv still needed to clear the approaches to their ports for export.