ISTANBUL, Oct 31 (Reuters) – Turkey will continue its efforts for the Black Sea grain export deal despite Russian hesitancy, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday after Moscow suspended its participation in the initiative at the weekend.
“Even if Russia behaves hesitantly because it didn’t receive the same benefits, we will continue decisively our efforts to serve humanity,” Erdogan said in a speech.
Moscow blamed Kyiv for an attack on its Black Sea fleet and on Saturday pulled out of a deal to allow Ukrainian grain shipments for an “indefinite term”.
Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s biggest food exporters, and a Russian blockade of Ukrainian grain shipments caused a global food crisis earlier this year.
“Our effort to deliver this wheat to countries facing the threat of starvation is evident. With the joint mechanism that we established in Istanbul, we contributed to the relief of a global food crisis,” Erdogan said, adding the deal had already provided 9.3 million tons of food to world markets.
Separately, a U.N. spokesperson said the first of 40 planned ship inspections on Monday had been completed in Istanbul waters with a team of just U.N. and Turkish members, rather than the previous four-member teams including Russians and Ukrainians before Moscow’s suspension.
Twelve vessels embarked from Ukrainian ports on Monday under the , Ukrainian Infrastructure Minster Oleksandr Kubrakov said.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, halted its role in the Black Sea deal on Saturday for an “indefinite term” because it could said it could not “guarantee safety of civilian ships” travelling under the pact after an attack on its Black Sea fleet.
“Today 12 ships left Ukrainian ports. @UN & Turkish delegations provide 10 inspection teams to inspect 40 ships aiming to fulfil the #BlackSeaGrainInitiative. This inspection plan has been accepted by the Ukrainian delegation. The Russian delegation has been informed,” Kubrakov wrote on Twitter.
The United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine pressed ahead to implement a Black Sea grain deal and agreed on a transit plan for Monday for 16 vessels to move forward, despite Russia’s withdrawal from the pact that has allowed the export of Ukrainian agricultural products to world markets.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine on. Feb 24, on Saturday halted its role in the Black Sea deal for an “indefinite term”, cutting shipments from one of the world’s top grain exporters, because it said it could not “guarantee safety of civilian ships” travelling under the pact after an attack on its Black Sea fleet.
The move has sparked an outcry from Ukraine, NATO, the European Union and the United States, while the United Nations and Turkey, two main brokers of the July deal, scrambled on Sunday to save it.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaux, Ron Popeski, Pavel Polityuk, Michelle Nichols; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; editing by Diane Craft)