Erdogan’s meeting with Putin in Sochi: focus of talks on grain deal

Elizabeth Smith

A meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin is expected to take place today on the resumption of the agreement on Ukrainian grain exports across the Black Sea, especially its feasibility under the new UN terms.

It will take place in Sochi, Russia – the first meeting between the two leaders since last October. Before the fall harvest, and while Kiev’s counteroffensive on the southern front is testing Russian forces.

The goal of Ankara – one of the few NATO countries to have maintained good relations with Putin – is that the dialogue channel on Ukrainian grain transportation can become a springboard for broader peace negotiations between Kiev and Moscow.

The point on the grain deal

Although there has been no shortage of turbulence in the ties that unite Russia and Turkey, the two countries seem to have become even closer since the invasion of Ukraine.

A relationship that drags mutual benefits. The economic crisis that almost cost Erdogan his re-election was mitigated by Putin’s choice to reduce and defer Turkish payments for Russian gas. While Turkey has refused to adhere to Western sanctions against Russia. Thus becoming indispensable to Russians who want access to a range of products and services.

Today, as revealed to Tass by a political source in Ankara, “the two leaders will carefully evaluate the new proposals that have been drafted by the United Nations with Turkey’s participation.”

The reference is to the previous grain agreement, which last July Russia decided not to renew because the conditions it had set regarding the suspension of sanctions would not be met. A decision that had worldwide repercussions on food prices.

The other issues at stake

The new package of U.N. proposals, according to reports in Sabah newspaper, moves toward lifting restrictions on Russian food producers whose assets have been frozen in Europe.

Not only that. Also on the UN table would be measures to assess the damage done to ammonia pipelines. And, the reconnection of the Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to Swift.

But Putin and Erdogan will also talk about “the supply of Russian natural gas to Europe through Turkey. This issue is no less important, it is about creating a natural gas hub on Turkish soil.” In Turkey, a transit country for energy connections, the president of the Russian Federation had already envisioned building a natural gas hub.

Finally, at the center of today’s dialogue will be the fight against terrorism, especially in Syria. Both leaders have at heart the issue of political unity and territorial integrity of the Middle Eastern state. And, the advancement of the political process to reach a lasting solution in the country.

Read also: Ukraine, why Crimea is now the key: Zelensky opens to a “political” solution

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