6 Jun 2022 20:04

Ukraine not invited to Russia-Turkey talks on grain export - Zelensky

MOSCOW. June 6 (Interfax) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that neither he nor Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has been invited to Ankara for a June 8 meeting, at which ship traffic in the Black Sea will be discussed among other issues and which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will attend.

"I haven't been invited. The foreign minister hasn't so far been invited either," Ukrainian media outlets quoted Zelensky as telling reporters on Monday.

Zelensky said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and he had discussed, among other issues, Turkey's possible mediation to help unblock Ukraine's seaports.

"It's important to us that we're ready to let grain out of the country... It's important for us to ensure that there is a safe passage for ships, that this or that fleet of this or that state ensures the transportation of this grain of ours. That's all. And we've discussed this matter both with the United Kingdom and with Turkey. Turkey's now looking for a format of how to provide such guarantees to us... I think that this is the reason why they're meeting with the Russians - to ensure that Russia gives Turkey guarantees that nothing will happen to their ships. This is what I think. But, nevertheless, I'm not currently aware of details of their meetings," he said.

Negotiations on transporting Ukrainian grain are ongoing with the United Nations and with the Baltic countries and Poland, i.e. on the transportation of a certain amount of grain by rail, but this option is not a priority because of the long time of delivery, the Ukrainian president said. Ukraine can export 10 million tonnes of grain per month via the Odesa ports, he said.

"Whereas 22 million-25 million tonnes are blocked there now, we may have as many as 75 million tonnes in the fall. What will we do then? That's why, we can't cope without the ports," Zelensky said.

When asked on what terms Ukraine may agree to demine the coast of the Odesa ports and who should be the guarantor to persuade the Ukrainian side to do it, the president said, "In my opinion, the strongest guarantee is our relevant weapons, which will be deployed in the region, the unblocking of this or that corridor in the port to enable the transportation of grain."

"We are working on that with specific states," he said.

Ukraine is not prepared to consider exporting grain via Belarus, Zelensky said.

"As regards Belarus, this information is public. We received an offer to go via Belarus by rail [to export grain]. We even know what volume. But we understand why we were offered this. We are not yet prepared to follow this format and help our 'friendly' neighbors," Zelensky told reporters on Monday.