8 Jun 2022 17:55

Lavrov says citing Turkey that Ukraine agrees to ensure passage of vessels via mined waters

MOSCOW. June 8 (Interfax) - According to Turkey, Ukraine is willing either to clear its territorial sea of mines or ensure the passage of vessels loaded with grain through those waters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

"Until lately, the Ukrainian authorities, including President [Volodymyr] Zelensky, have publicly ruled out their consent to demine those territorial waters so as to start this process," Lavrov said at a press conference following negotiations with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara.

"If it is willing now either to demine them or ensure passage through the minefields, as our Turkish friends are telling us, well, let's hope this problem will start being resolved," he said.

The Russian military is in touch with its Turkish counterparts to discuss the details of proposals on releasing grain from Ukrainian seaports, Lavrov said.

"There have never been any obstacles on our part for [solving] this problem - in fact, a petty problem, that's what it really is. If the Kyiv leadership is ready at last, we'll be only happy to cooperate," Lavrov said.

"As concerns the release of Ukrainian grain, Russia doesn't even have to do anything, as Moscow has announced its portion of the work that has to be done on a daily basis," he said.

"We are prepared to convoy and safeguard vessels leaving Ukrainian ports and heading for the Straits, and we are prepared to do this in cooperation with our Turkish counterparts. The main problem was [...] Ukraine's refusal to demine its ports. I'll repeat: if they've changed their attitude now, there'll be no problems on our part. Let's see how the tentative agreements that we've discussed yesterday and today are implemented in practice," Lavrov said.

Russia values Turkey's efforts toward unblocking the situation and taking grain out of Ukrainian ports, he said.

The amount of Ukrainian grain blocked at the seaports makes up less than 1% of the global production of wheat and other grain, and "the current grain situation has no relation to the food crisis," Lavrov said.

The Russian special operation in Ukraine "is developing according to plan and is reaching its objectives," he said.

Cavusoglu said Ankara views the plan for unblocking the Ukrainian ports, which envisions the establishment of a special mechanism to involve Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the United Nations, as "sensible, acceptable, and practicable."

The implementation of this plan requires Russia's and Ukraine's consent, and "we might hold a meeting in Istanbul to discuss details," Cavusoglu said.