Erdoğan, Putin agree on Türkiye visit as Ankara presses for grain deal

Erdoğan, Putin agree on Türkiye visit as Ankara presses for grain deal

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin agreed on a scheduled visit by the Russian president to Türkiye, as the Turkish leader said Ankara would continue to engage in diplomacy to reinstate the now collapsed Black Sea grain deal, according to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting Daily Sabah.

In a phone call, Erdoğan told Putin that “no steps should be taken that will escalate tensions in the Russia-Ukraine war,” emphasizing the significance of the Black Sea Grain Initiative that he called a “bridge for peace,” the Turkish Presidency said in a statement.

The statement did not provide any timetable for Putin’s visit. A senior Turkish official told Reuters that discussions between Ankara and Moscow are ongoing for a visit in late August. Erdoğan earlier said the trip could occur as soon as this month.

Türkiye has positioned itself as an intermediary in the conflict and Erdoğan was a key player in brokering the grain deal that allowed for the safe passage of Ukrainian grain shipments via its Black Sea ports. But Moscow withdrew from the accord last month and has since attacked Ukrainian agricultural and port infrastructure.

Moscow has repeatedly said that it was ready to return to the deal “immediately” once an accompanying agreement concerning Russia was implemented.

Erdoğan said last month he hoped Putin’s planned visit could lead to the restoration of the Black Sea grain deal, and called on Western countries to consider Russia’s demands.

Russian position

The talks came after Moscow struck Ukraine’s grain ports in the wee hours of Wednesday, including an inland port across the Danube River from Romania, sending global food prices soaring as Russia ramps up its use of force to reimpose a blockade of Ukrainian exports.

As a result of the attack, a grain elevator, grain silos and warehouses were damaged or destroyed, prosecutors said.

Erdoğan on Wednesday vowed Türkiye would press ahead with “intensive efforts” and diplomacy to reestablish the grain deal.

He told Putin that the long-term deactivation of the initiative “will not benefit anyone” and that countries in need would suffer the most, according to the presidency.

Erdoğan also said grain prices, which decreased by 23% when the agreement was in force, increased by 15% over the last two weeks.

For his part, Putin told Erdoğan that Moscow was ready to return to the grain deal as soon as the West met its obligations with regard to Russia’s own grain exports.

Putin listed Russia’s reasons for exiting the deal last month, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin asks for help to export grain to Africa

The call came a day after the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said there were “indications” that Russia might be interested in returning to discussions concerning the accord.

Moscow exited the deal in mid-July, complaining that the international community had failed to ensure that Russia could also freely export its grain and fertilizer as part of that accord.

Asked about the issue, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, “Russia – and President Putin has said this a 100 times already – is ready to immediately return to the deal itself. Just that the deal must be implemented in the part that concerns the Russian Federation. So far this has not been done, as you know.”

“The West imposed sanctions against Russia without taking into account the needs of the world community for food, the U.N. General Secretariat is well aware of this,” he added.

Russia’s grain and fertilizer exports are not subject to Western sanctions but Moscow has said restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have been a barrier to shipments.

The deal, brokered by Türkiye and the United Nations in July 2022, aimed to alleviate a global food crisis, and grain prices have risen since Moscow let it expire on July 17. Ukraine and Russia are both leading grain exporters.

Nearly 33 million tons of Ukrainian grain was exported while the Black Sea deal was operational.

Meanwhile, Putin on Wednesday asked Erdoğan to help Russia export its grain to African countries vulnerable to food shortages.

“The willingness for cooperation with Turkey and other interested states on this issue was expressed” during a call between the two leaders, the Kremlin statement said.