Kyiv and the United Nations are set to join Russia and Turkey in consultations on grain exports from Ukraine, as a fresh round of talks is set to take place on Wednesday, a senior official said.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar’s remarks on Tuesday come shortly after Interfax news agency, citing the Russian Foreign Ministry, reported that the military delegations from Turkey, Russia and Ukraine will meet with a United Nations delegation in Istanbul.
The report of the meeting came a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that it was time to act on a U.N. plan to set up a sea corridor for Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea.
“Military delegations from Turkey, Russia and Ukraine and a United Nations delegation will be conducting talks in Istanbul tomorrow regarding safe transfer of grain waiting in Ukrainian ports to international markets via sea route,” Akar said in a statement.
The minister said talks held by Erdoğan within the framework of diplomatic efforts to solve the “food crisis” are yielding positive results.
The summit in Istanbul is the run-up to talks between the Turkish and Russian military delegations, which took place in Moscow last month to discuss the sea route and the safe departure of vessels at Ukrainian ports.
Erdoğan and Putin discussed coordinating efforts on exporting grain and the safety of navigation in the Black Sea, the Kremlin said.
The two leaders are set to meet face-to-face for the first time since Russia sent its armed forces into Ukraine on Feb. 24. Erdoğan and Putin will both travel to Tehran next week to attend a trilateral summit in the so-called Astana format of meetings for Syria-related talks.
During the visit, Putin will have a separate meeting with Erdoğan, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.
Ankara has so far held talks with Moscow and the U.N. on the planned grain corridor but has said any final agreement would require all parties to meet in Istanbul, where Turkey says the plan’s implementation would be monitored.
Both Ukraine and Russia have set out a series of conditions to agree to the plan. Moscow wants some Western sanctions lifted to help facilitate its grain and fertilizer exports, while Kyiv seeks security guarantees for its ports.
Erdoğan on Monday also held talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during which the leaders stressed the need to unblock Ukraine’s ports and resume its grain exports.
Erdoğan emphasized the need for a diplomatic solution to the crisis and that the negotiating table should be kept open to that end.
“We appreciate (Turkish) support. Discussed the importance of unblocking (Ukrainian) ports and resuming grain exports. We must also prevent Russia from taking our grain from (occupied territories),” Zelenskyy tweeted.
The calls come at a time of record food prices globally, as the conflict in Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain suppliers, has aggravated concerns about food security and a global food crisis.
Since the start of the invasion, Ukraine has been unable to use the seaports that had been its main export conduit and has been able to export only around a third of the grain it would previously have sent abroad.
Turkey has been mediating between Moscow and Kyiv since Russia launched its military campaign in Ukraine. The last talks between representatives of Russia and Ukraine were held in Istanbul at the end of March.
Erdoğan reiterated Ankara’s willingness to keep doing its part for peace in Ukraine. The ongoing war should end with lasting peace, he told Putin during the phone call.