The Kremlin has announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin will host Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks next week in Sochi. This meeting comes just over six weeks after Moscow broke off a deal brokered by Ankara and the United Nations. A deal that had allowed Ukrainian grain to reach world markets safely despite the ongoing 18-month war in Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the meeting is scheduled for Monday in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The announcement has put an end to weeks of speculation about when and where the two leaders might meet next. It comes as international efforts continue to try to mend the frayed Black Sea Grain Initiative. That played a vital role in sending grain to parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, where hunger is becoming an increasingly dire threat.
Both Ukraine and Russia are major global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other commodities that developing nations rely on heavily.
Turkey’s Key Role
Turkey played a pivotal role in brokering the deal in July 2022. They allowed Ukraine to resume shipping foodstuffs from three Black Sea ports. Under this initiative, ship and cargo inspections were overseen from Turkey. And vessels sailed to and from Ukraine through Turkish ports. During the agreement’s existence, nearly 33,000 tons of grain left Ukraine.
Ankara’s significance in this matter cannot be overstated. Turkey is one of Russia’s main trading partners and serves as a crucial logistical hub for Russia’s foreign trade. Especially in the face of Western sanctions. Turkish President Erdogan has often referred to President Putin as “my dear friend.”
Simultaneously, a separate memorandum was agreed upon by Moscow and the United Nations, pledging to overcome wartime obstacles to Russian exports of food and fertilizer. However, Russian officials alleged that the conditions of these agreements were not met. Leading to Russia’s withdrawal from both deals in July.
Russian Export Concerns
Russia has persistently complained about restrictions on shipping and insurance hampering its agricultural exports. Nevertheless, it has managed to ship record amounts of wheat since last year.
In an attempt to revive the deal, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently sent Russia a new proposal. However, it did not satisfy Moscow’s demands, as stated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during talks with his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, in Moscow on Thursday.
Lavrov revealed that he had presented the Turkish government with a list of actions that the West would need to take for Ukraine’s Black Sea exports to resume. The upcoming talks between President Putin and Erdogan could play a pivotal role in resolving this impasse.
The announcement of Monday’s meeting coincides with the departure of two bulk cargo ships from the Ukrainian port city of Yuzhne on Friday. The Liberia-flagged Anna-Theresa and the Ocean Courtesy, flying under a Marshall Islands flag, were reportedly carrying pig iron and iron ore concentrate. However, the legal and security circumstances surrounding their departure remain unclear.
As global attention remains fixed on these diplomatic negotiations. The fate of crucial grain exports from the Black Sea region hangs in the balance.