NEW YORK: Russia’s foreign minister lambasted the “lies” of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and refuted suggestions that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, during a heated press conference at the UN on Saturday.
Addressing a briefing attended by Arab News, Sergey Lavrov stressed confidence in Iran’s claim that it has no intention to obtain “the bomb,” referencing the 2003 religious edict issued by its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei forbidding production or use of nuclear weapons.
“If Iran came into possession of nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia said it would also have to consider this,” Lavrov said at the 78th session of the UN General Assembly.
“This is something I view as a statement of fact: Nobody wants to see the emergence of new nuclear states; but since we believe that Iran won’t have the bomb, Iran’s neighbors won’t be tempted to take that path.”
Lavrov was speaking amid international calls for a resumption of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, with Gulf states reportedly looking to support mediation efforts.
Agreed last year, the deal allowed 33 million tons of grain to be exported from Ukrainian ports, helping to stabilize global food prices and avert shortages.
But Moscow withdrew in July after months of protest that the export of Russian fertilizer was not being honored.
“The Ukrainian part of the package was implemented rather effectively and swiftly, while the Russian part wasn’t implemented at all,” said Lavrov.
“At the same time, our naval officers were opening up for the safe passage of grain ships, but the corridors were used to launch UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and carry out strikes on Russian ships.
“But the main reason why we left the agreement is everything promised to us turned out to be a lie.”
Earlier in the week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres referenced questions that had arisen over Russia’s apparent interest, or lack thereof, in resurrecting the deal.
When this was put to Lavrov, he denied this was the case, reiterating that Moscow’s withdrawal was linked to the “lies” surrounding rights for Russian fertilizer exports, as he pointed to the continuing work between Russian representatives and UN officials to resolve the blockade.
“We were lied to on the basics of the deal, and the secretary-general himself was forced to mislead on that,” Lavrov said.
“Let us once again recall what President (Vladimir) Putin said, which is that as soon as everything that’s enshrined in the Russian part of the package is implemented, on that very day the Ukrainian part of that initiative will become operational.”
Saying “someone in London or Washington doesn’t want the war to end,” Lavrov poured scorn on the continued investment from Western states into Ukraine’s defense apparatus.
Segueing into saying “we all know the US is doing everything possible to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, but somehow this doesn’t seem to cause great concern,” he concluded by appealing to African states to consider Russia as a partner.