Britain is offering its expertise to help escort Ukraine’s grain from its ports under a UN plan designed to prevent a massive famine across Africa, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in Ankara on Thursday after meeting with Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
Turkey has tried to negotiate the terms of an escort for more than 20 million. tons of Ukrainian grain that is urgently needed, but Çavuşoğlu said he had not been able to secure a date for a meeting between Ukraine and Russia – a sign of an agreement on safe passage thi the convoy had not been reached.
Çavuşoğlu also said that Turkey was investigating allegations by Ukrainian diplomats that Ukrainian grain had been stolen by Russia and sent to Turkey, but that they had not found any stolen shipments so far.
Russia is demanding the lifting of sanctions against Russian shipping in return for allowing the convoys to leave the Ukrainian port of Odesa and sail through the Black Sea.
Truss said: “It is very clear that Ukrainian ports need to be protected. There must be safe passage for commercial vessels. And the UK is offering our expertise on all these fronts to ensure we have the measures in place so that grain can safely leave it. , but it will require international action. “
No agreement has yet been reached on the details of how the grain convoys would be inspected to ensure they did not carry weapons to Ukraine. It has been accepted that the ships can technically safely leave the heavily mined ports by establishing safe routes through the mines. Previously, it had been thought that the mines should be cleared.
Truss said Britain supported the plan for a UN resolution to legitimize the convoy, but added: “Russia can not be allowed to delay and rule out. It is urgent that action be taken within the next month ahead of the new harvest.” The stalemate has meant that Ukraine’s existing silos are filled and exposed to attack by Russian missiles. Turkey has offered to operate a control center in Istanbul, from which the convoy operation could be monitored jointly.
“Putin is arming hunger, he is using food security as a tough weapon of war,” Truss said. “He has blocked Ukrainian ports and stopped 20 million tons of grain being exported across the globe, holding the world against ransom.”
Failure to reach an agreement will have devastating consequences, she said, a reference to drought already hitting sub-Saharan Africa. A special food summit is to be held in Rome on Friday, as the West and Russia spar on responsibility for the grain blockade.
The British Secretary of Defense, Ben Wallace, is also in Turkey to discuss the British contribution to any convoy plan as well as to persuade Turkey to lift its current blockade of Sweden and Finland joining NATO over what Turkey categorizes as a soft line over for Turkish Kurdish terrorists. operating in their countries.
So far, there has been no breakthrough, although Turkey is pleased that a special session on threats to NATO on its southern flank will be included at the NATO summit, allowing Ankara to raise the issue.
Çavuşoğlu said Sweden had provided papers to Turkey on what it was prepared to do to block the financing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from Sweden. The PKK has led a revolt against the Turkish state since the 1980s and has been designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Britain is a close ally of Turkey and is trying to use its influence to persuade Ankara to shelve its objections to Swedish membership. Truss said NATO’s open door policy should remain sacred, adding: “This is a moment of strength, of commitment and unity.”