Russian and Turkish military will escort ships carrying Ukrainian grain in Black Sea, Lavrov says

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, left, receives Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, at the organization’s headquarters in Cairo on July 24. (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia and Turkey will use “military naval forces” to escort ships carrying Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea to the Bosphorus once transport restarts, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday.

Lavrov added that “another participant, to be determined” will also escort vessels carrying Ukrainian grain, without providing further details.

“Ukraine carries out mine clearance, lets ships go to the high seas, Russia, Turkey, together with another participant, to be determined, accompany convoys to the [Bosporus] Strait,” Lavrov said during a meeting with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit in the Egyptian capital Cairo.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement that “coordination between the authorities continues so that the first vessel loaded with grain will start leaving Ukrainian ports as soon as possible.”

Ukraine and Russia agreed on Friday to a deal that would see the resumption of vital grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports – a major diplomatic breakthrough aimed at easing a global food crisis sparked by war. As part of the deal, the grain ships would navigate a safe Black Sea corridor under Ukrainian pilots, then cross the Bosphorus Strait – a major shipping corridor in northwestern Turkey – to reach global markets.

Ukraine accuses: In an earlier meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Lavrov blamed Ukraine for the stagnation of any new negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv.

“We have no prejudice against resuming negotiations on a wider range of issues…the Ukrainian authorities, starting with the president…constantly declare that there will be no negotiations until the Ukraine will not have defeated Russia on the battlefield,” he said.
“But the longer they continue to demand that Ukraine fight to the end – and we all understand what will happen and what end will come – the more people will die and the longer the current situation will persist.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses the Arab League meeting at its headquarters in Cairo on July 24.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses the Arab League meeting at its headquarters in Cairo on July 24. (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

Tour in Africa: Egypt is the first leg of Lavrov’s trip to Africa, where he will also meet senior officials in Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo. Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer, relying heavily on Ukraine and Russia for supplies to feed its 100 million people.

Lavrov’s trip aims to rally support and reaffirm alliances with Russia, and comes a week after US President Joe Biden visited Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia.

Most African countries did not condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as they sought to maintain a balance in their relations with Russia and Western countries.

Christi C. Elwood