The leaders met in Sochi for the first time since October 2022
Moscow to deliver 1 million tons of grain to Ankara at a preferential price, to be processed in Turkish enterprises and sent to countries in need, and the deal to be done with the financial support of Qatar. Russian President Vladimir Putin made this offer to his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan even before the start of their meeting in Sochi on Monday.
The owner of the Kremlin welcomed him to his summer residence “Bocharov Ruchey” – an impressive palace from the Stalin era right next to the Black Sea resort of Sochi. This was the first meeting of the two leaders since October 2022 and lasted 3 and a half hours. In recent months, they had been communicating remotely.
Russia is also ready to replace Ukrainian supplies to the poorest countries and has promised to supply Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, the Central African Republic, Eritrea with between 25 and 50,000 tons of grain free of charge. Putin emphasized that from the fall of 2022, Russia will twice donate fertilizers to African countries: 20,000 tons to Malawi and 34,000 tons to Kenya.
The Russian Foreign Ministry considers the initiative the “best working alternative” to the grain deal, which Moscow withdrew from on July 17. It was agreed between Ukraine and Russia with the help of Turkey and the UN and aimed at the safe export of thousands of tons of grain across the Black Sea.
After the talks, the Russian leader stated that the relations between the countries are developing successfully in all directions. According to him, trade between Russia and Turkey has increased by over 80% in a year. It became clear that no new peace initiatives regarding the situation in Ukraine were discussed. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the talks between the two leaders were very constructive and “there was an alignment of clocks”.
Putin emphasized that Moscow’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Initiative did not affect the world market – “prices are falling, there is no shortage of food”. There was
problems with the fair distribution on the grain
According to the Russian president, the West has misled Moscow about the humanitarian goals of the Black Sea Corridor, as more than 70% of the total 32.8 million tons exported by Ukraine went to rich countries.
“I would like to confirm our principled position: we are ready to consider the possibility of resuming the grain deal immediately if all the agreements written in it to remove restrictions on the export of Russian agricultural products are fully implemented,” Putin said.
After the landmark meeting, the Turkish president admitted that there are still no effective alternatives to the Black Sea initiative. However, he called Russia’s expectations about the deal fair. “Ukraine must soften its approach to revive the Black Sea grain deal,” Erdogan also said.
Future prospects for development in the field of energy were also discussed at the meeting. Putin explained that the first unit of the Akkuyu NPP in Turkey, which is being built as a subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom, is scheduled to be launched next year.
The Black Sea strategic waterway is a vital link for energy trade and agriculture. From there, oil, gas and grain are exported to the whole world. However, Russia’s attempts to stifle the Ukrainian economy also affected Turkey’s interests.
Putin and Erdogan have long had a complicated relationship. From the rights of the Crimean Tatars to the war in Syria – they often argue on different topics, but they persistently seek a common language and support from each other.
Back in 2016, Erdogan complained that the Black Sea was turning into a “Russian lake” and advocated a joint Romanian-Bulgarian-Turkish NATO fleet to balance Russian power, the European Politico recalls. Now, as the war in Ukraine increasingly expands to the sea, those fears are becoming more palpable.
Turkey still wants to keep itself as
an intermediary in the war in Ukraine,
to help Russia keep its trade lines open. The failed grain deal isn’t just hitting Ukraine hard, which relies on exports to finance its defense. It also disrupts the supply lines of Turkish ships, which is not favorable for a country struggling with galloping inflation and a severe crisis. Therefore, one of Erdogan’s most important goals during his visit to Sochi was precisely to resume the peace corridors and limit the scope of the war so that it does not spread to the Black Sea.