Russian and Turkish defence ministers have discussed a potential grain export corridor from Ukraine, as well as the situation in northern Syria, Turkey’s defence ministry said as Ankara and Moscow geared up for talks between their foreign ministers.
NATO member Turkey shares a sea border with both Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea, and has been working to mediate between both sides in their war. Turkey has supported Kyiv, and refused to impose sanctions on Moscow.
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Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu evaluated “all measures that can be taken regarding the safe shipment of grains, sunflower, and all other agricultural products,” the Turkish Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.
The announcement comes as the two countries’ foreign ministers meet in Ankara for talks on United Nations-led efforts to open a safe corridor for Ukrainian grain shipments and Syria.
UK seeks investigation
Black Sea ports in Ukraine, the world’s fourth-largest grains exporter, have been blocked by Russian naval forces since the invasion, with about 20 million tonnes of grain now stuck in the country.
The United Nations is trying to broker a deal to enable Ukraine’s grain to be shipped from ports such as Odesa. Russia has said it wants Western sanctions lifted as part of a deal to end the port blockade.
Ukraine and the West have accused Moscow of weaponising global food supplies. Russia blames the situation on what it says are Ukrainian anti-ship mines in Black Sea waters and international sanctions against Moscow.
On Tuesday, the United Kingdom’s farming minister called for an immediate investigation into allegations that Russia had been stealing grain from occupied areas in Ukraine.
Victoria Prentis told an International Grains Council (IGC) conference in London that she had heard the allegations of grain theft by Russia firsthand from sources in Ukraine’s southern region of Kherson, describing them as very serious.
Russia has previously denied allegations that it has stolen Ukrainian grain. Ukraine also alleged last week that Russia was shipping stolen grain to Turkey out of Crimea, which it annexed in 2014. It also accused Russia of sending 100,000 tonnes of stolen Ukrainian wheat to Syria.
Ukraine’s Deputy Economy Minister Taras Kachka told the IGC conference that the reputation of Russian companies would be damaged for years by what he said were their attempts to trade in stolen grain.