Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in Turkey, calls Ukrainian president ‘unhinged’
June 8, 2022
Minister, friend, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to once again thank our Turkish friends and hosts for their hospitality and a productive meeting. This is the third ministerial meeting this year. Before that, we met in Antalya, then in Moscow and now in Ankara.
The relationship between our countries is a mature partnership based on pragmatism, respect and consideration for each other's interests and the principle of neighbourliness. The presidents set the tone of our relations. They communicate regularly. Due to pandemic-related restrictions, communication has been limited to telephone conversations. This year alone, they have talked nine times and discussed a variety of pressing bilateral and international political issues.
Today, we discussed the schedule of upcoming contacts at various levels between the governments of our countries and in other formats. We talked about preparations for the next highest-level meeting within the 9th meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council. We discussed developments in trade, the economy and investment. Trade doubled to almost $14 billion in the first quarter. We have good prospects for transitioning to national currencies for mutual settlements. This process is at an advanced stage. We are also discussing the use of the Russian Mir payment card in Turkey, which will help rebuild tourist flows to pre-pandemic levels. The record high was almost 7 million tourists. That figure went down to 4 million in 2021. It continues to grow.
As is customary, we prioritise cooperation in the energy sector. The construction of the first Turkish nuclear power plant Akkuyu is on schedule, and our Turkish Stream gas pipeline-related cooperation is going strong. These actions are being implemented as agreed by the presidents and are on schedule.
As for international issues, we discussed Ukraine. We again emphasised the problems that emerged right on our borders every year, as well as threats to our security created by outside players that are located far from this region. We discussed the progress of our special military operation that is being carried out according to plan and is achieving its goals. We explained that in the process we are trying to minimise any harm to civilians and members of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.
We devoted considerable attention to the problem of shipping out Ukrainian grain. Our Western colleagues and Ukrainians themselves are trying to present the problem as a global disaster. The share of Ukrainian grain that is at stake is less than one percent of the global production of wheat and other cereals. The current situation with Ukrainian grain has nothing to do with a food crisis. President Vladimir Putin spoke about this in detail in a special interview on June 3, 2022. All the facts were laid out for all to hear (of course, for those who wanted to listen). We appreciate the efforts of our Turkish friends that are looking for ways out of the deadlock, shipping out grain from Ukrainian ports and allowing foreign ships to leave these ports (there are dozens of them there). They are basically being held hostage right now. We fully understand this interest. We recalled today that for over a month, our Navy, the Black Sea Fleet has been opening humanitarian corridors from Ukraine’s territorial waters to the Bosporus. All ships wishing to leave these waters can use these corridors and head for their homeports or transshipment points. Until recently, the Ukrainian authorities, including President Vladimir Zelensky, publicly stated their unwillingness to demine these territorial waters in order to start this process. Literally, a couple of days ago I heard Vladimir Zelensky ask for anti-ship weapons. We will resolve everything ourselves, he said. It is clear how unhinged this statement is. Now our Turkish friends are telling us that the Ukrainians are ready either to demine ports or ensure the passage of ships through the minefields. Let’s hope this problem will be resolved. Our military officials are discussing the details of these efforts with our Turkish friends. We have never created any obstacles to resolving this problem that is not a big one. If the Kiev authorities are ready, we will only be happy to cooperate. I would like to thank our Turkish friends once again for their attention to this problem that our Western colleagues are obviously trying to preserve as a constant irritant. The sooner we resolve it, the better for all.