Sergey Lavrov says Moscow will not use the situation surrounding grain shipments in and around the Black Sea to advance its "special military operation", as long as Ukraine lets ships leave safely.
Moscow is ready to ensure the safe passage of vessels from Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said, 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 in Ankara on Wednesday.
"We are ready to do this in cooperation with our Turkish colleagues."
Lavrov said Moscow would not use the situation surrounding grain shipments in and around the Black Sea to advance its "special military operation", as long as Ukraine lets ships leave safely.
"These are guarantees from the president of Russia," he said.
Lavrov arrived in Ankara on Tuesday amid stark warnings of global food shortages partly blamed on Russia's offensive against Ukraine.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the conflict and a Russian blockade of its ports have halted much of that flow. Many of those ports are now also heavily mined.
Russia’s FM Lavrov addresses reporters with Turkish counterpart Cavusoglu in Ankara:— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) June 8, 2022
- Talked about strategic energy projects
- We hope to use our own currencies, special bank cards between Russian, Turkish tourists
- Our operation in Ukraine is going according to plan pic.twitter.com/4D7yTVk1UC
Türkiye: UN plan reasonable
After talks with Cavusoglu, Lavrov said the onus was on Ukraine to solve the problem of resuming grain shipments by de-mining its ports. Ukrainian officials have previously expressed concern that removing the mines could enable Moscow’s forces to attack.
"To solve the problem, the only thing needed is for the Ukrainians to let vessels out of their ports, either by de-mining them or by marking out safe corridors, nothing more is required," he said.
Moscow denies responsibility for the international food crisis, blaming Western sanctions, which have impeded the export of Russian grain and fertiliser.
Turkish Foreign Minister 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.
He said a United Nations plan to restart Ukrainian grain exports along a sea corridor was "reasonable" and requires more talks with Moscow and Kiev to ensure ships would be safe.
The UN has appealed to Russia and Ukraine, as well as maritime neighbour and NATO member Türkiye, to agree a corridor.
Cavusoglu said their meeting in Ankara was fruitful, including a perceived will to return to negotiations between the warring sides for a possible ceasefire.
"Various ideas have been put out for the export of Ukrainian grains to the market and most recently is the UN plan (including) a mechanism that can be created between the UN, Ukraine, Russia and Türkiye," he added.