Russian President Vladimir Putin has told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is ready to work with Ankara to free up Ukrainian ports that Russia has blocked over the conflict in Ukraine.
Putin noted the “readiness” of Russia “to contribute to the unimpeded maritime transit of goods in coordination with Turkish partners,” the Kremlin quoted Putin as saying in a readout of a call on May 30 with Erdogan. “This also applies to grain exports from Ukrainian ports."
The Kremlin said the two discussed "ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov seas" and "eliminating the threat of mines in their waters."
Dozens of container ships are blocked in Ukrainian ports that are surrounded by Russian forces, choking off exports of wheat and other commodities from Russia and Ukraine, which together account for about 30 percent of global wheat exports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy later discussed the situation at the ports, food security, and defense cooperation with Erdogan.
"Unanimously agree on the need to restore peace. We appreciate Turkey's assistance in this process," Zelenskiy said on Twitter.
The international community has been calling on Russia to unblock the ports and allow the export of Ukrainian grain.
Putin last week held a telephone call with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in which he said Russia was ready to help find options for the unhindered export of grain from the Black Sea ports.
But he tied relaxing Russia's blockade of Ukraine's ports to the West removing biting sanctions it slapped on Moscow after its invasion.
Erdogan’s office said he told Putin that Turkey was ready to resume a role in ending the war in Ukraine, including taking part in a possible “observation mechanism” between Ukraine, Russia, and the United Nations, the statement said.
Negotiations in Istanbul in March failed to make any headway, but Turkey, which has close ties to both Kyiv and Moscow, has repeatedly put itself forward as a possible mediator.