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Russia says it will have talks with Turkiye about alternative to Black Sea deal

August 30, 2023 at 5:27 pm

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia on May 26, 2023 [Russian Foreign Ministry/Anadolu Agency]

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, will discuss a proposal by Moscow for an alternative to the Black Sea grain deal when they meet this week, Lavrov’s Ministry said on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

Under the plan, Russia would send a million tons of grain to Turkiye at a discounted price, with financial support from Qatar, to be processed in Turkiye and sent to countries most in need, the Foreign Ministry said.

“We consider this project as the optimal working alternative to the Black Sea deal,” it said.

Russia pulled out last month from the year-old deal, brokered by Turkiye and the United Nations, which had enabled Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports despite the war.

READ: Kremlin warns of risks in resuming grain deal without Russia

Since then, Russia has repeatedly attacked Ukrainian ports and grain stores, prompting Ukraine and the West to accuse it of using food as a weapon of war.

Russia says it quit the deal because too little of the grain was getting to the poorest countries, and because it still faces obstacles to the export of its own grain and fertiliser, given that Western sanctions affect payments, insurance and port access.

Fidan is due in Moscow on Thursday and Friday to meet Lavrov, and the Kremlin said on Wednesday that Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, would also visit Russia soon.

It was not clear what incentive Qatar would have to take part in the arrangement proposed by Russia which, since the collapse of the grain deal has also promised to supply quantities of free grain to six African countries.

The Russian statement said Lavrov would restate Moscow’s position that, following the collapse of the grain deal, it would consider all ships heading to Ukraine as potentially carrying military cargo.

READ: Ukraine cargo insurance policy suspended after Russia quits grain deal – Marsh