Officials from Russia, Ukraine meet in Turkey to negotiate possible grain export deal
Military delegations representing Russia, Ukraine and Turkey met with United Nations officials in Istanbul on Wednesday to discuss resuming exports of grain from Ukraine.
Turkey has been working steadily with the U.N. to broker a deal following Russia's late February invasion of Ukraine, which sent soaring the price of grain – and the prices of some oils, gas and fertilizer.
A spokesperson for the Russian defense ministry was quoted by Interfax saying that Moscow presented a package of proposals that would enable a "speedy practical resolution of this issue."
Following Wednesday's meeting, Reuters reports that it is not clear whether any progress was made.
On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters, "We are working hard indeed but there is still a way to go. Many people are talking about it. We prefer to try and do it."
Diplomats involved in the discussions say that the deal would involve Ukrainian vessels guiding grain ships through mined port waters, Russia agreeing to a truce while those ships move, and Turkey – with support from the U.N. – playing the role of ship inspector to diminish Russian concerns of weapons smuggling.
Interfax reported that a Russian foreign ministry official said his country wants to be in control of inspecting vessels.
Furthermore, according to news agency RIA, Russia also wants to see a number of Western sanctions expunged, as part of any deal.
"There are obstacles for the Russian side in the areas of ship insurance, logistics, transportation services and banking operations due to the sanctions imposed," said a source for RIA.
Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Kyiv and Moscow are "two steps away" from coming to an agreement, but that Moscow could always drag out talks.
At present, Russia's invasion and sea blockade has stranded dozens of ships in the Ukraine city of Odesa with millions of pounds of grain on them. Typically, the months of July-November are the busiest for traders to ship grain crop from both Russia and Ukraine to the rest of the world.