Erdogan fails to secure new grain deal from Putin

September 5, 2023

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was told by Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday that Moscow would not renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative until certain demands were met. 

At a joint news conference, Putin reiterated an assertion he made previously—that Moscow would return to the grain deal as soon as the West met its obligations with regard to Russia’s own grain exports. Though Russia’s grain and fertilizer exports are not subject to Western sanctions, the Kremlin has asserted that restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have obstructed shipments. The United States and the European Union have dismissed Moscow’s complaints as without merit.

Erdogan had traveled to Russia to try to convince Putin to allow Russia to return to the 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.

Putin dissolved the deal in mid-July, and 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.

Despite Putin’s digging in on Monday, Erdogan expressed hope that a breakthrough in the impasse would occur soon. He said Turkey and the U.N. had put together a new package of proposals aimed at “fixing the shortcomings” that are holding back a new deal. 

As Russia finds itself increasingly isolated from the West, Turkey—a NATO member nation—has maintained their relations, declining to take part in Western sanctions and continuing to export goods.

Even so, Erdogan in July did advance Sweden’s bid to join NATO after months of holding back his approval. The move was seen as a signal that Turkey was looking to mend ties with the West, and it came amid an amicable one-on-one meeting between Erdogan and President Biden at the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania that month.

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