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Conditions for Putin-Zelensky talks, grain exports: what Lavrov said in Ankara

A meeting between the Russian President and his Ukrainian counterpart is possible only after the resumption of the negotiation process as a whole, the Russian Foreign Minister pointed out

ANKARA, June 8. /TASS/. Russia will not use the demining of Ukrainian ports for military purposes and agrees "in one way or another" to formalize appropriate guarantees, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday at a press conference following talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

According to the minister, Moscow is ready to discuss with Kiev the export of Ukrainian grain through the UN mediation, but the solution of this issue depends only on Ukraine. At the same time, a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Zelensky, who reiterated his readiness to meet the day before, is possible only after the resumption of the negotiation process as a whole, Lavrov stressed.

Ukrainian grain export

Ankara believes a mechanism for grain exports from Ukraine’s ports can be established by Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN, Cavusoglu pointed out.

According to Lavrov, Moscow is ready for coordination with Ankara to ensure the safety of ships leaving Ukrainian ports, the only problem is the position of Kiev, which has so far refused to demine its territorial waters: "Yet if now, as our Turkish friends say, the Ukrainian side is ready to provide passage <...>, let’s hope that the problem will be resolved. <…> If the Kiev regime is ready, we’ll be only happy to cooperate."

Lavrov said that Russia is ready for a UN-mediated meeting with Ukraine, however, the participation of the latter "would be nothing but symbolic <...>", in order to solve the problem it is enough for the Ukrainians "to let ships leave their ports."

At the same time, Lavrov emphasized that the grain export issue, which the West and Kiev are trying to present as a "global catastrophe," has nothing to do with the world food crisis: " <…> The share of grain in question is less than 1% from the global production of wheat and other cereals."

Security for Ukrainian ports

"We guarantee <...> that when and if Ukraine agrees to demine its coast and let ships leave its ports, we will not take advantage of the situation to advance our special military operation. These are President [Vladimir Putin’s] guarantees, and we are prepared to formalize them one way or the other," Lavrov said.

Possible Putin-Zelensky meeting

Lavrov stressed that an opportunity for a meeting between Putin and Zelensky will emerge only after the process of negotiations between Moscow and Kiev has resumed: "We proceed from the assumption that the teams of negotiators are to resume their work first." Lavrov slammed the Ukrainian president's approach to the negotiations as unserious: "Zelensky wants to meet for meeting’s sake. He changes his mind with every passing day <...>". The resumption of dialogue depends on the position of Kiev, which has not yet provided its response to the Russian version of the draft agreements, presented in mid-April: "The ball has been in Ukraine’s court for almost two months now."

According to Cavusoglu, Ankara sees an opportunity for resuming negotiations between Moscow and Kiev and is ready to organize a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents. The minister noted that Turkey understands Ukraine's dissatisfaction over the republic's refusal to join the anti-Russian sanctions, but seeks "from the very beginning to maintain a balanced position and not to try to please any of the parties."


Moscow will continue to cooperate with Ankara "on the Syrian settlement" and understands its concerns about the threats created on Turkish borders by "external forces," including US units illegally present in Syria, Lavrov said. He reiterated Russia's commitment to the agreements with Turkey: they are being implemented slowly, but the sides fully share the set goals.

Cavusoglu called for continuing work in the Astana format, which includes Iran along with Russia and Turkey, and stressed the West's fault for supporting "terrorists in northern Syria." "We expect both the US and Russia to implement the agreements to clear these regions of terrorists."

Moscow-Ankara relations

The relations between Russia and Turkey, according to Lavrov, are "mature." "They are based on pragmatism, on respect and taking into account each other's interests, [they are] guided by good neighborhood principles."

Ukrainian representatives’ behavior

The Russian foreign minister described the behavior of Ukrainian ambassadors in a number of Western countries as unacceptable and boorish: "I am also being accused of poor choice of words sometimes, but it’s one thing to pick words poorly, and it’s another thing altogether what is being meant by that." He said he had briefly discussed this matter with Cavusoglu, and they "have a common understanding here that it is better to talk decently after all."

Lavrov himself had to deal with inappropriate behavior right at the press conference when a Ukrainian journalist decided to ask the minister, out of order, what "of the stolen goods in Ukraine, besides grain, Russia has already managed to sell." "Do you always have a headache about where to steal something? And you think everyone does that?" the foreign minister responded.