Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. Aiming to persuade Russia to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal that Moscow terminated in July.
The meeting, taking place in Sochi on Russia’s southern coast, follows weeks of speculation about when and where the two leaders would convene.
Background: Why Russia Left the Grain Deal
Six weeks ago, the Kremlin refused to renew the grain agreement. This deal was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022. It allowed nearly 33 million metric tons (36 million tons) of grain and other commodities to exit three Ukrainian ports safely during Russia’s war.
Russia’s decision to exit the agreement was based on its assertion that a parallel deal. Promising to remove obstacles to Russian exports of food and fertilizer, had not been honoured. Moscow complained about shipping and insurance restrictions hampering its agricultural trade, despite having shipped record amounts of wheat since the previous year.
Turkey’s Role as a Broker
Since Russia withdrew from the initiative, Erdogan has repeatedly pledged to renew arrangements. That helped prevent a food crisis in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other essential goods for developing nations.
During the 18-month war in Ukraine, Erdogan maintained close ties with Putin. Positioning Turkey as a main trading partner and logistical hub for Russia’s overseas trade. Despite being a NATO member, Turkey did not join Western sanctions against Russia and continued to support Ukraine through arms deliveries. In addition to high-level meetings, and backing Kyiv’s NATO membership aspirations.
Complex Russia-Turkey Relations
While Erdogan’s rapport with Putin has been described as close, both leaders have ruled their respective countries for more than two decades. Traditional rivals, Turkey and Russia, have grown closer over the years through increased trade and joint projects. Despite their opposing roles in conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh. Notably, Turkey’s acquisition of Russian-made air defence missiles in 2019 led to its removal from the U.S.-led F-35 stealth fighter program.
Russia’s Demands and U.N. Involvement
The Sochi summit follows talks between the Russian and Turkish foreign ministers, during which Russia presented a list of Western actions required for the resumption of Ukraine’s Black Sea exports.
Erdogan has indicated an understanding of Putin’s position and the need for Western countries to take action. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has sent proposals to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov aimed at facilitating Russian exports to global markets and reviving the Black Sea grain deal. However, Lavrov indicated that Moscow remained unsatisfied with the proposals.
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan described Turkey’s intensive efforts to revive the agreement, emphasizing the need to understand Russia’s position and requests, which encompass various issues from financial transactions to insurance.