Lavrov Begins Africa Trip In Egypt Seeking To Calm Concerns About Grain Deliveries, Inflation
July 24, 2022
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reassured Egyptian leaders that Moscow is committed to delivering supplies of Russian grain after reaching a deal with Ukraine on grain exports.
"We reaffirmed the commitment of Russian grain exporters to meet all their commitments," Lavrov said on July 24 in a press conference in Cairo with Egypt's foreign minister, Sameh Shukry.
"We discussed specific parameters of cooperation in this area, agreed on further contacts between the relevant ministries, and we have a common understanding of the causes of the grain crisis," Lavrov said.
Lavrov is in Egypt on the first leg of an Africa trip that will also take in Ethiopia, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The trip is aimed at assuaging concerns raised by the disruption of shipments of Ukrainian grain caused by Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February.
African nations have been particularly affected by rising commodity prices caused by the war, including spiking gas and oil prices.
The deal Russia reached with Ukraine on July 22 is backed by the United Nations and Turkey and is aimed at allowing grain exports to leave Ukraine to help ease inflation and a global food crisis.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the deal as a "beacon of hope" for a world in which food prices are rising rapidly.
Russia said it played no role in the food crisis, and in an article posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website ahead of the trip, Lavrov rejected Western claims that Moscow is to blame for the growing global food crisis, dismissing them as "another attempt to shift the blame to others."
The deal calls for unblocking the export of some 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural products that have been stuck in Black Sea ports due to the war.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the implementation of the deal should start in the coming days and will be run by a joint coordination center in Istanbul.
Under the agreement, ships are to be guided through safe channels in the Black Sea, avoiding mines placed by Ukraine as part of its war defenses. Representatives of the four parties to the agreement are to monitor the ships through the Bosphorus and on to world markets. All sides agreed there would be no attacks on them.
Lavrov said at the news conference that as many as 70 foreign vessels from more than a dozen countries were waiting to transport grain. He said one of them, a ship that was to bring food to Egypt, was blocked "because of the threat of mines."
Ukraine has said that responsibility for the blockade lies with Russia, whose forces on July 23 launched missile strikes on Odesa, one of the Black Sea ports from which grain is exported.
Ukraine on July 24 said it would proceed with plans to restart grain exports despite the missile strikes, which Moscow said had destroyed "military infrastructure" at the Odesa port.
While in Cairo, Lavrov also met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and addressed the permanent representatives of the Arab League.
He used the speech to press the Kremlin's narrative that the West pushed Russia to invade Ukraine and accused the West of ignoring Moscow's security concerns stemming from NATO's expansion eastward.
Before Russia launched its invasion on February 24, European countries, the United States, and other Western nations made numerous attempts to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to resolve differences over security and NATO expansion through negotiations.
Egypt has refused to take sides in the Ukraine war, and Sisi has cultivated close personal ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Egyptian presidential spokesman Bassam Rady said Sisi asked Lavrov to convey his greetings to Putin.
He stressed the priority importance of dialogue and diplomacy to end the "crisis" in Ukraine and reiterated Cairo's support for "efforts to settle the situation in the interests of ensuring international security and stability," according to TASS.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, and TASS
Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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