The United States called Friday on Russia to let out Ukrainian grain quickly and voiced hope that a Turkish-brokered deal was well-structured enough to monitor compliance.
“We fully expect the implementation of today’s arrangement to commence swiftly to prevent the world’s most vulnerable from sliding deeper into insecurity and malnutrition,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
“We’re hopeful that this is going to make a difference. But we’re clear-eyed about it,” he said.
Speaking separately at the Aspen Security Forum, senior US diplomat Victoria Nuland praised the level of detail of the agreement negotiated by Turkey and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“It’s now incumbent on Russia to actually implement this deal. But it is very well-structured in terms of monitoring and in terms of channels that the grain ought to be able to get out of,” said Nuland, the undersecretary of state for political affairs.
Nuland said that Russia was obliged to act after the blockade sparked by its invasion of Ukraine in February sent food prices soaring in developing countries, particularly in Africa, where it had banked on support.
“This came together because, I think, Russia ultimately felt the hot breath of global opprobrium and it was losing the global south, who had become convinced that this was really NATO’s fault,” she said.
Getting out the grain “should have been easy. We could have done this on the back of an envelope in the middle of an afternoon with the will.”
US officials hailed the role of Turkey, a NATO ally that has had uneven relations with Washington due in part to its military involvement in Syria and purchases of weapons from Russia.
“We commend UN Secretary-General Guterres as well as Turkish President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan,” Kirby said.
But, in response to a question, Kirby said the deal did not erase US concerns about Erdogan’s threats of a new operation against Syrian Kurdish fighters, seen by Ankara as linked to separatists at home but close partners of Washington in battling the Islamic State (IS) group.
“We remain deeply concerned by Turkey’s threat to conduct a military operation in northern Syria,” Kirby said.
An operation “may be destabilizing and it could put at risk the civilian population there as well as, quite frankly, the coalition’s campaign against ISIS,” he said, using another acronym for IS.
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