War in Ukraine: Russia’s Lavrov meets Turkish counterpart to discuss grain deal to aid world’s poor

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Turkey on Thursday to discuss the war in Ukraine and the future of a key export deal that has been allowing the flow of grain to continue to countries where hunger is a growing threat.

Lavrov met with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu during a fast-breaking dinner in Ankara.

Turkey, which is a NATO member, has good ties with both Ukraine and Russia. it is also pushing to resume peace talks, hoping to build on past diplomatic endeavours last year.

“Despite the complication of the international situation, the Russian-Turkish political dialogue, primarily at the level of the heads of the two states, continues,” the Russian foreign ministry said ahead of the visit.

In March, Moscow accepted an extension to the initial deal that allowed goods to cross the Black Sea to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but only for 60 days instead of 120 days- which the UN and Turkey, the deal’s initial brokers, called for. 

Ukraine and Russia are both major global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other affordable food products that many nations depend on.

The March extension was the second renewal of the agreement that Ukraine and Russia signed last July to allow food shipments from three Black Sea ports following a halt to shipping after Russia’s full-scale invasion.

US and Russia discuss arrested reporter

Meanwhile, the US ambassador to Russia and a top Kremlin diplomat met Thursday to discuss a Wall Street Journal reporter who was arrested last week on espionage charges, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

In the meeting, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stressed “the serious nature of the charges” against American journalist Evan Gershkovich.

“It was emphasized that he was caught red-handed while trying to obtain secret information, using his journalistic status as a cover for illegal actions,” the statement said.

The ministry added that “the hype in the United States around this case, which is aimed at putting pressure on the Russian authorities and the court, which should decide the fate of Gershkovich, is hopeless and senseless.”

Gershkovich was arrested on 29 March for allegedly trying to obtain classified information about a Russian arms factory. The arrest made him the first US correspondent since the Cold War to be detained for alleged spying.

The Wall Street Journal has denied the accusations.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Lavrov to release Gershkovich immediately, as well as another imprisoned American, Paul Whelan.

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