Turkey is planning to host Russian, Ukrainian and United Nations officials for talks in the coming weeks aimed at resuming the export of grain that is currently stuck in Black Sea ports, according to media reports.
The planned meeting in Istanbul will be preceded by a visit to Moscow this week by a Turkish defence delegation to discuss details of a possible safe sea corridor in the Black Sea, local Turkish broadcasters NTV television and CNN Turk, and the Reuters news agency, cited Turkish presidential sources as saying on Tuesday.
Russia’s TASS agency also confirmed plans for the Turkish military delegation’s talks, citing Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Millions of tonnes of wheat and other grains are currently stuck in Ukrainian ports, either blockaded or occupied by Russian forces, and vessels face the danger of mines that have been laid in the Black Sea.
The sources speaking to Reuters said a four-way meeting between Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and the Un would be held in Istanbul in the coming weeks, possibly with the participation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The sources said that the plan envisaged creating three corridors from Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odesa under Kyiv’s supervision, and that both Ukrainian and Russian food products would be shipped from there.
They said 30 to 35 million tonnes of grain could be shipped from the port in the next six to eight months.
Asked about the plans outlined by the sources, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said “the discussions on these issues are continuing”, without further elaborating.
According to the Turkish foreign ministry, the UN has submitted a plan to facilitate exports that would see safe corridors set up around known mines in the sea.
That plan would not require lengthy and complex demining operations, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week.
The initiative has been backed by the European Union, but received a cautious response from Kyiv, which is looking for ways to export the grain by land, without having to engage with Russian officials.
Earlier this month, Cavusoglu hosted his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Ankara to discuss the issue, but without conclusive results.
President Erdogan also discussed grain exports with the UN’s Guterres on Monday.
Turkey is “exerting joint efforts with the United Nations for the export of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea in a bid to avert a global food crisis,” Erodgan’s office said on Tuesday.