Turkish and Russian officials met in Ankara on Wednesday to discuss a United Nations proposal that would allow the export of some 22 million tons of Ukrainian grain through the nation’s blockaded Black Sea ports.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, both expressed support for the creation of a safe maritime corridor for the export of Ukrainian grain during an escalating worldwide food shortage.
Russia called for the de-mining of Ukrainian ports to facilitate the export, and Turkey — a NATO member with historically friendly relations with Russia — called for an easing of Western sanctions put in place after the Kremlin’s decision to invade its neighbor.
Previously one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, Ukraine now has millions of tons of the essential foodstuffs languishing in Ukrainian silos due to Russia’s invasion and subsequent Black Sea blockade.
Ukraine was not a party to Wednesday’s talks, and Ukrainian officials have balked at the suggestion they de-mine their ports in the middle of a war.
Russia has said it will promise not to use any safe shipping corridors for military purposes, with Lavrov offering to sign a formal declaration guaranteeing the safety of the large historic port of Odessa, which remains under Ukrainian control.
Lavrov claimed Russia would not “abuse” its naval superiority, and said the Kremlin would “take all necessary steps to ensure that the ships can leave [Odessa] freely.”
The Russian foreign minister also insisted that ships accessing the ports be inspected to ensure no Western weapons shipments.
The head of Ukraine’s grain traders’ union dismissed the ongoing negotiations Wednesday, saying Turkey was not powerful enough to guarantee anyone’s safety.
“Turkey doesn’t have enough power in the Black Sea to guarantee security of cargo and Ukrainian ports,” said Ukrainian grain union head Serhiy Ivashchenko.
With Post wires