(Ankara) The head of Russian diplomacy Sergey Lavrov threatened Friday in Ankara to suspend the agreement on Ukrainian grain exports if sales of Russian agricultural products remain hampered.
Mr. Lavrov was speaking to the press following a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Cavusoglu, whose country was heavily invested in the conclusion of this agreement last summer.
“If there is no progress in removing barriers to Russian fertilizer and grain exports, then we will wonder if this deal is necessary,” Lavrov said.
The agreement, which allows Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea despite the war, was extended on March 19.
According to a Turkish official at AFP, Mr. Lavrov was also to be received on Friday by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, campaigning for his re-election on May 14.
Mr Erdogan and Vladimir Putin have met four times in the past year and speak regularly by phone, most recently on March 25.
But Moscow offered 60 days rather than the initially agreed tacit extension of 120 days, insisting on honoring the other side of the deal, which concerns its own fertilizer exports.
Theoretically, these products essential to global agriculture do not fall under the Western sanctions imposed on Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. But they are in fact hindered by the banks.
According to the Turkish Minister, “The US and UK have taken steps in terms of payment and insurance, but problems persist. Some banks have failed to do so.”
Similarly, Cavusoglu continued, “steps have been taken to re-ship Russian ammonia and fertilizers from Western countries to African countries, but the problem is not solved.”
In addition, Mr. Lavrov denounced the inequality of Ukrainian exports between rich and poor countries.
According to the Joint Coordination Center responsible for overseeing the international agreement, 56% of exports went to developing countries, and 5.7% went to the least developed countries, which total more than 12% of the world’s population.
Russia and Turkey act in concert on several international issues and Moscow had argued before Mr. Lavrov’s arrival the need to “synchronize clocks” with Ankara.
Turkey has managed since the beginning of the conflict to maintain relations with Ukraine and Russia and Mr. Cavusoglu on Friday expressed “his concern [about] an escalation of the conflict in the spring”.
But, Mr. Lavrov warned, peace talks on Ukraine will only be possible if they aim to establish a “new world order” without American domination.
“Negotiations can only take place on the basis of taking Russian interests into account,” he insisted. “These are the principles on which the new world order will be founded.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has conditioned any meeting with Mr. Erdogan on the withdrawal of Turkish forces present in northern Syria to prevent Kurdish attacks.
But President Erdogan’s spokesman and diplomatic adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, announced on Wednesday an upcoming meeting in Moscow of the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers, plus those of Russia and Iran.
This will take place “in the coming days” with the intelligence chiefs of the four countries, Mr. Kalin said: the latter also met with President Putin on Thursday in Moscow, the Kremlin announced.
“The dialogue must continue. It would be beneficial if the consultations continue in the same way,” the Turkish minister confirmed on Friday.