Turkey waiting on green light from Russia for grain corridor meeting - Çavuşoğlu

Turkey is waiting on a positive response from Russia for an Istanbul meeting of Russian and Ukrainian sides to discuss a deal on a grain corridor via Black Sea, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday.

A control centre will be established in a safe zone just outside the Ukrainian territorial waters, if Russia and Ukraine reach an agreement in a technical meeting planned to be held in Istanbul, Çavuşoğlu said in a joint press conference with his British counterpart Liz Truss in Ankara. The date of the meeting is yet to be determined, he added.

Çavuşoğlu also said Turkey is against the illegal selling of Ukrainian grain to international markets by Russia or any other country.

“We certainly do not allow the entry of such products to Turkey,” he said.

Since the Russian invasion that began in February, Ukrainian grain shipments from its Black Sea ports have stalled, with some 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos, threatening a worldwide food crisis.

Last month, the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to Moscow and Kyiv to agree a food corridor along the Black Sea via Turkey to restart Ukraine’s grain exports.

In addition to the efforts of the U.N.,Turkey also continues its efforts with both sides, focusing especially on Moscow, Çavuşoğlu said.

Reiterating Turkey’s strong support for a U.N. plan for setting up a corridor in the Black Sea, “It's actually a pretty good plan, but the parties have to agree on it,” Çavuşoğlu said.

“As Turkey, we make an effort, we play a constructive role. This issue should be resolved as soon as possible,” he said.

In this control centre, ships, especially those bound for Ukrainian ports will be inspected to make sure that they are not carrying weapons or anything else, Çavuşoğlu said. This is also a demand of Russia, he said.

“Of course, everyone also wants to make sure that the ships carry the specified products on their return,” Çavuşoğlu said.

In order for the process to be transparent, Turkey is constantly informing both the U.N. and Ukraine about its meetings with Russian side, he said.

Earlier this month, Çavuşoğlu held a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Ankara. Ukrainian grain exports was among the issues discussed by the two foreign ministers. Russian and Turkish military officials also met in Moscow on Tuesday, discussing "the issues of safe exit of Turkish merchant ships and grain export from Ukrainian ports, as well as approaches to ensuring safe navigation in the Black Sea," Turkish state-run Anadolu agency said, citing a Russian Defence Ministry statement.

On the other hand, Russia's expectations are also clear, Çavuşoğlu said. Russia wants to be able to receive the services at the ports for their ships that will carry food and fertilizer, such as insurance and banking, so that payments can be made, he said.

Moscow demands the removal of Western sanctions imposed on the country following its invasion of Ukraine, to help Ukrainian grain exports.

Çavuşoğlu said Turkey took and investigated every claim seriously regarding the allegations that Russia had stolen the Ukrainian grain and shipped to countries including Turkey.

“We investigated all the ports the ships have departed and the country of origin of the products,” he said.  All products were labelled Russian, Çavuşoğlu said.

At the beginning of this month, Ukraine said Russia had stolen almost half a million tonnes of grain that had been illegally exported from the country. Russia has denied all accusations of stealing Ukrainian wheat, but Ukrainian, U.S. and EU officials have accused Moscow of effectively weaponizing food to blackmail the world over a looming food crisis.

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