Britain is offering its expertise to help grain exports leave Ukrainian ports under a UN plan, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said, as she accused Vladimir Putin of “using food security as a callous tool of war”.
Ms Truss held a meeting with her Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara on Thursday to discuss the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Cavusoglu said the government was investigating claims that Ukrainian grain had been stolen by Russia and said no such shipments would be accepted by Turkey.
Mr Putin, the Russian President, was “holding the world to ransom” by preventing cereal from leaving Ukraine, Ms Truss said.
“It’s very clear that Ukrainian ports must be protected,” she said. “There needs to be safe passage for commercial vessels. And the United Kingdom is offering expertise on all of those fronts to make sure that we have the measures in place so that grain can safely leave. But it is going to require an international effort.”
“Putin is weaponising hunger, he is using food security as a callous tool of war. He has blocked Ukrainian ports and is stopping 20 million tonnes of grain being exported across the globe, holding the world to ransom.”
Mr Cavusoglu said his country was investigating alleged cases of Russia stealing Ukrainian grain.
Kyiv's ambassador to Ankara Vasyl Bodna this month said Turkish buyers were among those receiving grain that Russia had stolen from Ukraine. He said he had sought Turkey's help to identify and capture those responsible for the alleged shipments.
Mr Cavusoglu said: "We take every claim seriously and are investigating them seriously. We notify especially the Ukrainian side of the result every time.”
Russia has denied the allegations of stealing Ukrainian grain. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry did not immediately comment on the matter.
As well as food security and the effects of the war in Ukraine on the wider region, Ms Truss and Mr Cavusoglu discussed next week's Nato summit.
Leaders of the alliance’s 30 member states will gather in Madrid, where Finland and Sweden’s bids to join will be high on the agenda.
The two northern European countries have come up against opposition from Turkey over their plans for membership.
Talks between Finland, Sweden and Turkey about the applications will continue and the summit is not a deadline, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said.