Russian Minister Lavrov in Ankara to discuss the grain corridor between Ukraine and Syria

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov began a two-day visit to Turkey on Tuesday for talks on unblocking grain exports from Ukraine as well as Ankara’s planned military operation in northern Syria.

This is Lavrov’s second trip to Turkey after meeting his Turkish and Ukrainian counterparts Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Dmytro Kuleba in Antalya on March 10.

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.

Lavrov, accompanied by a military delegation, will hold a press conference with Çavuşoğlu on Wednesday.

At the heart of the negotiations, the opening of a security corridor to bring Ukrainian grain – grain and wheat in particular – blocked in the ports of the war-torn country.

Turkish Agriculture Minister Vahit Kirişci hinted that Ankara and Kyiv had reached an agreement to buy grain at 25% below market price, local media reported.

“But they (the Ukrainians) have a dilemma about security and exporting. They want us to be the arbiter here as Turkey. Negotiations are continuing under the auspices of the UN,” he said. declared.

“Russia and Ukraine trust us,” he added.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu discussed grain exports with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“The defense ministers discussed in detail the issues of safety of navigation in the Black Sea in connection with the resolution of the problem of grain export from Ukraine.”

In a phone call last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that Moscow was ready to work with Ankara to free maritime shipping blocked during the war.

Russia’s offensive in Ukraine and Western sanctions have disrupted the supply of wheat and other staples to the two countries, fueling concerns about the risk of shortages and famine around the world.

Russia and Ukraine produce 30% of the world’s wheat supply.

Dozens of container ships are stuck in Ukrainian ports surrounded by Russian forces, stifling exports of wheat, sunflower oil and other foodstuffs, as well as fertilizers for crops.

Navigation in the Black Sea has also been hampered by mines placed by Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Turkey, a NATO member, shares a maritime border with Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea and has worked as a mediator in their war. He supported Kyiv, but refused to impose sanctions on Moscow. Russia and Turkey also support opposing sides in Syria.

The growing contacts between Moscow and Ankara also come at a time when Turkey is hinting at a new military operation in northern Syria to fight terrorism.

Akar told his Russian counterpart Shoigu that “the necessary response will be given to actions aimed at disturbing the stability achieved in the region and the presence of terrorists in the region is not acceptable,” the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement. a statement.

Ankara says it must act because Washington and Moscow broke promises to push back the YPG/PKK 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the border after a Turkish operation in 2019, and because attacks from areas controlled by the YPG/PKK increased.

Akar also “recalled that previous agreements on this issue must be respected”, his office said.

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