ANKARA — Russia and Turkey agreed during talks in Ankara on Friday that obstacles must be lifted to ensure freer Russian fertilizer and grain exports, and enable a UN-brokered deal ensuring Black Sea shipments of Ukrainian grain to be extended beyond next month.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he and Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed “a failure” to implement the terms of the Black Sea grain deal.
He also said Russia could work outside it if Western countries maintain what he said were obstacles to agricultural exports, which he said were getting tougher.
The deal, agreed last July, ensures safe passage of grains and other commodities from Ukrainian ports despite a Russian naval blockade. Last month, Russia said it would extend it for another 60 days even though the UN, Ukraine and Turkey had pushed for a repeat 120-day rollover.
Alongside Lavrov, Cavusoglu told a news conference that Turkey was committed to extending the deal beyond mid-May.
“We attach importance to the continuation of the agreement…not only for Russia and Ukraine’s grain and fertilizer exports, but also for stopping the world food crisis,” Cavusoglu said.
“We also agree that the obstacles to the export of Russian grain and fertilizer should be removed. Issues need to be addressed for the grain deal to be extended further,” he said.
Lavrov said the two top diplomats discussed the grain deal, a potential gas hub in Turkey, the conflict in Syria, and Ukraine.
NATO-member Turkey has positioned itself as an intermediary between Kyiv and Moscow in the 13-month conflict, brokering with the United Nations the only significant diplomatic breakthrough so far.
Facilitating Russia’s food and fertilizer shipments is a central aspect of a package deal but Russia has complained that its exports were still hindered.
While Russian food and fertilizer exports are not under sweeping Western sanctions, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance industries are a barrier.
Lavrov said that Russian grain and fertilizer exports were affected by a lack of access to insurance and to the SWIFT financial messaging system. (Additional reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul; Writing by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Daren Butler and Barbara Lewis)
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