Turkey hails UN plan as feasible to avert food crisis
Turkey has hailed a UN plan with Ukraine and Russia to create a food corridor through the Black Sea in a bid to avert famine in the world’s poorest countries as Ankara hosted a meeting between Turkish and Russian foreign ministers, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Sergey Lavrov.
“There appeared some ideas for the export of Ukrainian grain to the international markets, such as the establishment of a mechanism by the UN, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey for the inspection of the vessels. We, as Turkey, see this plan as reasonable and implementable,” Minister Çavuşoğlu told a press conference following the meeting with Lavrov in Ankara on June 8.
The two ministers held around a two-hour long meeting at a presidential office in the Turkish capital. The two men were accompanied by large delegations with the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and its consequences being top of the agenda.
More specifically, Çavuşoğlu and Lavrov discussed about a plan to allow around 22 million tons of grains to be exported to the markets so that the world does not suffer from a food crisis.
The UN is working on a mechanism for that to happen, but the consent of Russia and Ukraine are needed. Both countries have important conditions on which Turkey is trying to find ways to resolve.
“It will be beneficial to discuss the measures for the safe navigation of the vessels [carrying grain to the world]. We hope that technical preparations will be accomplished as soon as possible,” Çavuşoğlu stated.
He also informed that Turkey proposed it can host a meeting in Istanbul to discuss the details of such a plan upon the suggestion by the UN.
Turkish minister called Russian demands for an end to sanctions to help grain onto the world market “legitimate.” “If we need to open up the international market to Ukrainian grain, we see the removal of obstacles standing in the way of Russia’s exports as a legitimate demand,” he stated, adding, steps should be taken for insuring the vessels, tackling logistical issues and payments.
Çavuşoğlu has also said that there is a relatively better climate for the resumption of ceasefire talks between Ukraine and Russia and expressed Turkey’s readiness to continue its role as a facilitator in efforts to end the ongoing war.
“We are not acting to please Russia or Ukraine. For example, the fact that we have not joined sanctions against Russia may not have pleased Ukraine, but we follow a balanced approach,” he stressed.
Lavrov: Not a major crisis
For his part, Lavrov blamed the West for describing the problem over the grain export as a disaster, saying “Ukraine’s grains share in the world market is just one percent. We cannot say it will lead to a food crisis. Ukraine keeps these vessels [in Odessa port] as hostage”.
Russian navy and its Black Sea fleet are continuously opening humanitarian corridors so that the ships can sail, Lavrov said, noting “If Ukraine is ready to de-mine [Odessa Port] then we are also ready.”
In fear of Russian occupation of its key port city, Odessa, Ukraine has mined its waters to keep the Russian fleet away from its shore. The mines prevent the secure navigation of the vessels who are stuck at the Odessa Port with their mostly wheat cargo.
Lavrov said they were ready to discuss the plan with Turkey, but stressing that there was no problem in the use of safe corridors opened by Russia in the Black Sea.
PKK/YPG cause trouble for Turkey’s security
The two ministers also discussed the recent developments in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and southern Caucasus. On Syria, Çavuşoğlu reiterated that the Syrian regime is not in favor of a negotiated solution as the recent UN-led meetings for writing the new constitution failed once again.
“On the other hand, there is a growing threat against us caused by the PKK/YPG from northern Syria. We have agreements with the U.S. and Russia from 2019. Both U.S. and Russia have committed themselves to clear this region [north Syria] of the terrorists. It is our natural right to expect them to fulfill these commitments. It is impossible for us to tolerate the attacks of these groups,” he stated.
Çavuşoğlu also stressed that Syrian Kurds should not be equated with the YPG.
These terror organizations are openly supported by some countries, particularly the U.S., he said “That is the reason why we oppose the admission of Sweden and Finland to NATO. No other reason.”
Lavrov said they understand Turkey’s concerns over the security of its borders and that Russia will work with Turkey on the issue.