STORY: It’s down to Ukraine to solve the problem of resuming grain shipments by de-mining its ports, says Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"I am repeating one more time, that we have never created obstacles on our side to solve this problem, little problem, as it is little actually. If the Ukrainian authorities are ready, then we are glad to cooperate".
Speaking in Ankara on Wednesday (June 8) after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Lavrov said no action was required on the Russian side as it had already made all the necessary commitments.
Ukraine is one of the world's biggest exporters of grain.
Western countries have accused Russia of creating a risk of global famine by shutting the country's Black Sea ports.
Moscow denies responsibility for the crisis, putting the blame on Western sanctions.
The United Nations have appealed to both sides - as well as maritime neighbor and NATO member Turkey - to agree a corridor for exports to be resumed.
Following Wednesday’s talks, Cavusoglu said the U.N.-backed plan was “reasonable.”
But added that both Russia and Ukraine would have to agree to it.
Any deal could involve a Turkish naval escort for tankers leaving Odesa and other Ukrainian ports - which are currently blockaded by Russia's navy - and onward to Turkey's straits and global markets.
Ukraine has said it needed "effective security guarantees" before it could start shipments, voicing concerns that Moscow could use the potential corridor to move on its southern port of Odesa.
Lavrov said Moscow would not use the situation surrounding grain shipments in and around the Black Sea to advance what it calls a "special military operation” - as long as Ukraine lets ships leave safely.
He added that main problem was that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had "categorically refused" to resolve the mined ports' problem.
Last month Russia's defense ministry released footage which it said showed teams working to de-mine a beach near a port in the besieged city of Mariupol.
Reuters could not verify when or where the footage was filmed.
Turkey, which has good relations with both Kyiv and Moscow, had previously said it is ready to take on a role within an "observation mechanism" based in Istanbul if a deal on grain exports is reached.
Although it has the second biggest army in NATO and a substantial navy, the country has been dismissed by the Ukrainian grain traders union - or UGA - who say it is not powerful enough to act as a guarantor.