Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that Moscow was ready to ensure the safe passage of vessels from Ukraine as concerns mount over grain stuck in Ukrainian ports.
“We are ready to ensure the safety of ships that leave Ukrainian ports,” Lavrov told a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“We are ready to do this in cooperation with our Turkish colleagues.”
Lavrov arrived in Ankara on Tuesday amid stark warnings of global food shortages partly blamed on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Talks focus on efforts to open a security corridor to ship Ukrainian grain — cereals and wheat in particular — stuck in the war-torn country’s ports due to a Russian blockade.
Cavusoglu called Russian demands for an end to sanctions to help grain onto the world market “legitimate”.
“If we need to open up the international market to Ukrainian grain, we see the removal of obstacles standing in the way of Russia’s exports as a legitimate demand,” he said.
Sanctions imposed on Moscow’s financial system have impeded the export of Russian grain and fertiliser.
At the request of the United Nations, Turkey has offered its services to escort maritime convoys from Ukrainian ports, despite the presence of mines — some of which have been detected near the Turkish coast.
“We are talking about a mechanism that can be created between the UN, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey” in order to open a safe sea corridor for grain exports, Cavusoglu said.
He welcomed the UN plan as “reasonable” and “implementable”, while offering to host a meeting in Istanbul to discuss the details of the scheme.
Russia and Ukraine produce 30 percent of the global wheat supply.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday: “Right now we have about 20-25 million tonnes blocked. In the autumn that could be 70-75 million tonnes.”