Lavrov in Turkey for talks on Ukraine grain exports

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov began a two-day visit to Turkey on Tuesday for talks on unblocking grain exports from Ukraine, which have been stalled by Moscow’s offensive.

The plane carrying Lavrov landed at the airport in the Turkish capital Ankara, an AFP photographer saw.

This is Lavrov’s second trip to Turkey after meeting his Turkish and Ukrainian counterparts Mevlut Cavusoglu 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 is accompanied by a military delegation.

At the heart of the negotiations is the opening of a security corridor to ship Ukrainian grain — cereals and wheat in particular — blocked in the war-torn country’s ports.

Turkey’s Agriculture Minister Vahit Kirisci hinted that Ankara and Kyiv reached an agreement for the purchase of cereals 25 percent below the market price, local media reported.

“But they (Ukrainians) have a dilemma about security and export. They want us to be the arbitrator here as Turkey. Negotiations continue under the auspices of the UN,” he was quoted as saying.

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

Russia’s offensive in Ukraine and Western sanctions have disrupted supplies of wheat and other commodities from the two countries, fuelling concerns about the risk of shortages and hunger around the world.

Russia and Ukraine produce 30 percent of the global wheat supply.

Dozens of container ships are blocked in Ukrainian ports surrounded by Russian forces, choking off exports of wheat, sunflower oil and other foodstuffs, as well as fertiliser for crops.

Black Sea navigation has also been hampered by mines placed by both Russian and Ukrainian forces.

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