Russia's foreign ministry has called an impending UN-mediated meeting with Ukraine in Istanbul to discuss establishing a safe passage 'grain corridor' from blockaded Black Sea ports as in reality "nothing but symbolic".
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that while his country is "ready" to sit down and discuss the issue, it's the Ukrainian side that's remained recalcitrant on the issue by refusing to demine the ports.
Lavrov issued the statements following Wednesday's meeting with his Turkish counterpart FM Mevlut Cavusoglu in Istanbul Wednesday. "About additional meetings in Istanbul [on the issue of grain exports]: we are ready for such meetings. We appreciate the UN's interest in getting involved in some way, marking its presence, but, frankly, it would be nothing but symbolic," Lavrov said.
Instead, the top Russian diplomat stressed all that is needed to solve this problem is for "the Ukrainians to let ships leave their ports by either demining or identifying safe corridors," he said according to TASS. "Nothing else is required."
Earlier in the day Turkey described that a plan being brokered under UN auspices to set up safe 'grain corridors' to open Ukraine ports for Black Sea transit has yet to be finalized, but that it's "feasible". Turkey has offered to escort maritime convoys as a neutral power from blockaded Ukraine ports.
Cavusoglu pointed out that for the plan to finally proceed, there would have to be direct negotiations between Moscow and Kiev, as we detailed earlier. But now, like with other faltered initiatives for the warring sides to sit down at the same table and make diplomatic concessions toward winding down the conflict, it appears things have already devolved into accusation and counter-accusation before ever getting off the ground.
Turkey finds the plan for a grain shipment corridor in the Black Sea "reasonable", but it requires more talks between Moscow & Kyiv. Ukraine is skeptical the safety of its ships/ports can be guaranteed despite Russia maintaining it would be.https://t.co/JCVuP1d2KB— Karen Braun (@kannbwx) June 8, 2022
So far, Ukraine's government hasn't been represented in the Russia-Turkey-UN talks; and Kiev has meanwhile not only blamed the Russian military blockade of its ports for causing a global food crisis, but has charged Russian forces with stealing Ukrainian grain.
Further, according to The Associated Press, Ukraine has "expressed concerns that if it removes mines from its Black Sea ports, Russia would be more able to attack its southern coast."
UN officials are meanwhile scrambling for a solution to the stalemate, given that last year alone Ukraine's grain exports fed an estimated 400 million people worldwide - and yet now very little is actually leaving through the Black Sea, leading to a looming catastrophe for millions especially in Africa and the Middle East, where many countries are solely dependent on Ukraine for their grain needs.