Russia says talks with Turkey to discuss alternative to Black Sea deal

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan will discuss a proposal by Moscow for an alternative to the Black Sea grain deal when they meet this week, Lavrov’s ministry said on Wednesday.

Under the plan, Russia would send a million tons of grain to Turkey at a discounted price, with financial support from Qatar, to be processed in Turkey and sent to countries most in need, the Foreign Ministry said.

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“We consider this project as the optimal working alternative to the Black Sea deal,” it said.

Russia pulled out last month from the year-old deal, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, that had enabled Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports despite the war.

Since then, Russia has repeatedly attacked Ukrainian ports and grain stores, prompting Ukraine and the West to accuse it of using food as a weapon of war.

Russia says it quit the deal because too little of the grain was getting to the poorest countries, and because it still faces obstacles to the export of its own grain and fertilizer given that Western sanctions affect payments, insurance and port access.

Fidan is due in Moscow on Thursday and Friday to meet Lavrov, and the Kremlin said on Wednesday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would also visit Russia soon.

The Russian statement said Lavrov would restate Moscow’s position that following the collapse of the grain deal, it would consider all ships heading to Ukraine as potentially carrying military cargo.

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