- Erdogan and Putin meet in Sochi
- Türkiye: We are cautious but optimistic
- Türkiye’s top economic team is also visiting Russia
- The United Nations is seeking to bring Russia back into the agreement
- Russia strikes Ukraine’s grain port – Ukraine
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday that Russia was open to discussions on the Black Sea Grain Agreement, a deal that helped bring Ukrainian grain to market and thus ease the global food crisis.
Russia withdrew from the deal in July – a year after the United Nations and Turkey brokered it – complaining that its food and fertilizer exports were being hampered, and that not enough Ukrainian grain was getting to countries in need.
Erdogan, who previously played an important role in persuading Putin to abide by the agreement, and the United Nations, is trying to persuade Putin to return to the agreement.
Speaking at the opening of their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin told Erdogan he hoped to conclude talks on a natural gas hub in Turkey, and said they would also discuss the grain deal.
“I know you intend to raise the issue of the grain deal,” Putin told Erdogan. “We are open to negotiations on this matter.”
Erdogan said the world was waiting for news on the grain corridor issue.
“Everyone is waiting for what will come out of our meeting today,” he said. “I believe that the message in the press conference after the meeting will be an important step for the whole world, especially for African countries,” he added.
The agreement aims to transport grain from Ukraine to world markets via the Black Sea and ease a global food crisis that the United Nations said was exacerbated by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
Russia and Ukraine are the world’s leading agricultural producers, and major players in the markets for wheat, barley, corn, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, sunflower seeds and sunflower oil.
Ahead of Erdogan’s talks, Ukrainian officials said Russia had launched an air attack overnight on one of Ukraine’s main grain export ports.
Romania denied the Ukrainian statement that Russian drones had fallen and exploded on the territory of the NATO member country.
United Nations proposal
Putin said Russia could return to the grain deal if the West adheres to a separate memorandum agreed with the United Nations at the same time to facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports.
While Russian exports of food and fertilizer are not subject to Western sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow said shipments were hampered by restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday that he had sent Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “a set of concrete proposals” aimed at reviving the agreement.
One of Moscow’s main demands is to reconnect the Agricultural Bank of Russia to the international payment system SWIFT. The European Union cut it off in June 2022 as part of comprehensive sanctions imposed in response to the invasion.
On Saturday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the matters included in the agreement were not implemented the previous time, without specifying that. In its report on Erdogan’s meeting, Russian state television said that the promises made to Russia must be fulfilled.
Russia has blockaded Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since its invasion of its neighbor and threatened to treat all ships as potential military targets after withdrawing from the UN-backed deal that allowed Ukraine to export tens of millions of metric tons of products.
In response, Ukraine announced the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” hugging the western coast of the Black Sea near Romania and Bulgaria. A third ship, the Liberian-flagged Anna-Teresa, on Sunday left the Black Sea via Istanbul via the corridor.
Russia is also discussing Putin’s initiative to supply up to 1 million tons of Russian grain to Turkey at reduced prices for later processing in Turkish factories and shipment to countries most in need.
Writing by Jay Faulconbridge. (Reporting by Lydia Kelly in Melbourne, Orhan Coskun and Ece Toksabay in Ankara, and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations) Editing by Robert Purcell and Philippa Fletcher
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