Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to visit Russia next month to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin about extending the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Turkish media reported Tuesday.
In mid-July Putin dissolved the 2022 United Nations-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative which was brokered by Turkey and allowed Ukraine to export grain and other food supplies to countries struggling with food insecurity in countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Since then Russia has been targeting Ukrainian ports with air strikes to prevent outgoing shipments of grain and other foodstuffs. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Russia of “using food as a weapon of war.”
Russian officials have said their actions are in “retribution” for a deadly explosion on the Kerch Bridge, the only direct access way from the annexed Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland. Ukrainian forces have claimed responsibility for that attack.
Ukraine supplies 10% of the world wheat market, 15% of the corn market, and 13% of the barley market.
As a result of Russia’s targeting of the ports, Ukraine grain exports in July fell 40% from the previous month, driving up prices around the world, to the point where the United Nations’ World Food Program has had to cut back on aid to refugees in the Middle East.
Turkish media called Erdogan’s upcoming trip to Russia “critically important” and a “most significant step” in resuming the grain deal. The Turkish President began urging Putin to resume the deal soon after it expired, but the Russian President has so far ignored his counterpart’s proposals.
A week ago, a Hong-Kong flagged cargo ship, co-owned by a German company and an unnamed Chinese bank, departed the Ukrainian port of Odesa carrying grain—the first test of a “humanitarian corridor” announced by Ukraine a week earlier.
Erdogan is expected to visit Russia some time in September, though an exact date has not yet been announced.
Putin, meanwhile, addressed the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in South Africa on Tuesday via video rather than in person, reportedly because he’s aiming to avoid an arrest warrant levied against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for war crimes against Ukraine’s children.