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the West must remove obstacles to its grain exports


ANKARA, Türkiye — Russia could withdraw from a wartime agreement that allows the export of Ukrainian grain to world markets if the West fails to remove obstacles to Russian agricultural exports, the head of Moscow’s diplomacy suggested on Friday.

The deal, which was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July, unblocked shipments stuck in blocked and mined Ukrainian ports, mitigating rising food prices and the threat of hunger in some countries.

A separate agreement was intended to facilitate the export of Russian fertilizers and grain. Moscow has repeatedly complained that the deal is not working for Russian agricultural exports, which have struggled to reach world markets due to Western sanctions.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that Russia agreed last month to extend the deal for 60 days – instead of 120 days planned in a previous extension – to send a warning signal to the West. .

“After extending the agreement for 120 days, we saw no indication that these issues could be resolved and we got tired of appealing to the conscience of those who determine it,” Lavrov said of the discontent. from Moscow. “We took a small step forward and offered to extend the agreement for 60 days only on the assumption that if there were no changes in the removal of barriers to Russian fertilizer and grain exports, we would consider whether agreement is necessary.”

Lavrov ignored the West’s argument that Russian food and fertilizers are not subject to sanctions. He noted that “barriers related to financing, logistics, transportation and insurance of Russian exports remained and even tightened.”

Experts say private transport and insurance companies remain cautious about handling Russian products amid war in Ukraine, although Russian wheat shipments hit or near record highs in November, December and January, according to financial data provider Refinitiv.

Lavrov said the West had effectively blocked the UN-Turkey deal on Russian agricultural exports and “that’s why we asked some governments for comfort letters.”

Instead of agreeing to another extension later this year, Russia may decide to work directly with Turkey and Qatar to ensure the grain gets to the countries that need it.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, whose country joined the UN and Ukraine in calling for a 120-day extension before the Ukrainian export deal expires last month, said said that he and Lavrov “agreed that barriers to the export of Russian grain and fertilizer should be removed immediately.

“We appreciate the continuation of the agreement,” Cavusoglu said. “It is not only important for grain and fertilizer exports from Ukraine and Russia. It is also important to reduce the global food crisis and especially the problem experienced by all households in the world.

Lavrov’s warning echoes that of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said last month that Moscow could end its participation in the initiative if its conditions were not met. Putin said Russia expected export facilitation of its own agricultural products as part of a comprehensive deal.

Lavrov and Cavusoglu also discussed Russian efforts to forge reconciliation between Turkey and Syria. Earlier this week, Moscow hosted the deputy foreign ministers of Turkey, Syria and Iran to facilitate rapprochement.

Turkey has backed armed opposition groups that sought to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad during the Syrian civil war. Turkey controls large swaths of territory in northwestern Syria, and Damascus is pushing for the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syria as a precondition for normalizing relations.

Turkey, for its part, is seeking security guarantees, including vis-à-vis Kurdish militants in Syria whom Ankara considers terrorists.

“We know that not all issues can be resolved in one or two meetings,” Cavusoglu said. “But the dialogue must continue and it would be beneficial if the consultations continued in the same way.”


Isachenkov reported from Moscow.


See full coverage of the war in Ukraine by AP at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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