In the midst of uncertainties over a deal to resume Ukrainian exports from the Black Sea, Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, visited Cairo on Sunday and provided assurances over Russian grain supply to Egypt.
One of the biggest buyers of wheat in the world, Egypt purchased roughly 80% of its supplies from Russia and Ukraine last year. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24 delayed supplies and accelerated a surge in commodity prices worldwide, shocking Egypt’s economy.
Egypt’s stance to the conflict has been conflicted by its close ties to Western nations that have sanctioned and attempted to isolate Moscow and its long-standing ties to Russia.
Prior to Lavrov’s visit, which included meetings with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and leaders of the Arab League, Western embassies pressured Egypt and the Arab League.
In a news conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated, ‘We underlined the willingness of Russian grain exporters to meet all their pledges.’
‘We agreed on continued contacts between the relevant ministries, and we discussed particular criteria of collaboration in this area. We also have a shared understanding of the reasons behind the grain issue.’
Tens of millions of tonnes of grain have been held since the war began due to a Russian Black Sea fleet blockade of Ukrainian ports, aggravating supply chain bottlenecks throughout the world.
An agreement to resume Ukrainian wheat exports by sea was signed on Friday by Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the UN. However, a Russian strike on Odessa on Saturday cast doubt on whether the agreement would be carried out.
Despite the fact that under the agreement reached on Friday, pilots will direct ships via safe passages, Russia has blamed the suspension of Black Sea traffic on Western sanctions and Ukrainian mines. Lavrov expressed his optimism that ‘illegitimate restrictions’ on shipping will be lifted by the UN.
He added that there were still 70 foreign ships from 16 or 17 nations there, holding the region as hostages. One of these ships, which was supposed to transport food to Egypt, was incidentally blocked in Ukrainian ports due to mine threats.