Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Turkey next week for talks on unblocking grain exports from Ukraine, which have been stalled by Moscow’s offensive, Agence France-Presse reported, citing Turkey’s top diplomat.
In a televised interview, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Lavrov would arrive in Turkey on June 8 “for talks on the issue of opening a security corridor that also includes (shipping) of wheat in the Black Sea.”
Çavuşoğlu said: “This is the most important question. We are focusing on this. We are planning to establish a center in İstanbul to observe the corridor.”
Lavrov will be accompanied by a military delegation, he added.
The announcement comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin told Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that Moscow was ready to work with Ankara to free up maritime shipping blocked over the conflict.
The Russian leader said the readiness of the Russian side “to contribute to the unimpeded maritime transit of goods in coordination with Turkish partners. This also applies to grain exports from Ukrainian ports,” the Kremlin quoted Putin as saying in a readout of a call with Erdoğan.
Russia’s offensive in Ukraine and Western sanctions have disrupted supplies of wheat and other commodities from the two countries, fueling 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 that are surrounded by Russian forces, choking off exports of wheat, sunflower oil and other foodstuffs, as well as fertilizer for crops.
Black Sea navigation has also been hampered by mines placed by both Russian and Ukrainian forces.