Grain Deal: In a significant development, President Vladimir Putin engaged in talks with Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, expressing Russia’s willingness to engage in discussions regarding the Black Sea grain agreement.
This agreement, initially brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, played a crucial role in facilitating the export of Ukraine’s grain to alleviate a global food crisis.
Russia’s withdrawal from the pact in July, merely a year after its inception, was driven by concerns over obstacles to its own food and fertilizer exports and a perceived shortfall in the distribution of Ukrainian grain to countries in dire need.
Notably, Erdogan had previously played a pivotal role in persuading Putin to uphold the agreement, and now, both he and the United Nations are striving to convince Russia to recommit to the accord.
The high-stakes meeting, taking place in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, witnessed Putin expressing hope for productive discussions not only on a natural gas hub in Turkey but also regarding the crucial Black Sea grain deal.
“I know that you intend to raise the issue of the grain deal,” Putin told Erdogan. “We are open to negotiations on this question.”
Erdogan remarked that the global community eagerly anticipated updates concerning the grain corridor matter.
“Everyone is waiting for what will come out of our meeting today,” he said. “I believe that the message at the press conference after the meeting will be an important step for the whole world, especially for African countries.”
The primary objective of the agreement was to establish a conduit for transporting Ukrainian grain to global markets via the Black Sea, thereby alleviating a worldwide food crisis exacerbated by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February of the previous year.
Russia and Ukraine both hold prominent positions as major agricultural producers on the global stage, exerting significant influence in markets related to wheat, barley, maize, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, sunflower seed, and sunflower oil.
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Preceding the talks with Erdogan, Ukrainian officials reported that Russia had initiated an overnight aerial assault on one of Ukraine’s major grain export hubs.
Romania contradicted a Ukrainian assertion that Russian drones had fallen and exploded within its NATO member territory.
Putin indicated that Russia might reconsider its stance on the grain agreement if the Western nations fulfill a separate memorandum concurrently agreed upon with the United Nations, aimed at facilitating Russian food and fertilizer exports. Although food and fertilizer exports from Russia remain untouched by Western sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has contended that limitations related to payments, logistics, and insurance have impeded shipments.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres disclosed on Thursday that he had forwarded “a series of specific proposals” to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with the objective of resurrecting the agreement.
One of Moscow’s principal demands is the reconnection of the Russian Agricultural Bank to the SWIFT international payments system, from which the EU severed ties in June 2022 as part of comprehensive sanctions imposed in response to the invasion.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova mentioned on Saturday that certain aspects implied by the agreement had not been fulfilled in the past, though specifics were not provided. Russian state television, in its report on the meeting with Erdogan, emphasized the need for the promises made to Russia to be upheld.
Since its incursion into Ukraine, Russia has imposed a blockade on Ukrainian Black Sea ports and has threatened to treat all vessels as potential military targets after withdrawing from the U.N.-backed deal, which had enabled Ukraine to export tens of millions of metric tons of agricultural produce.
As a response, Ukraine unveiled a “humanitarian passage” tracing the western coastline of the Black Sea, adjacent to Romania and Bulgaria. On Sunday, the Liberia-flagged vessel named Anna-Theresa utilized this corridor to exit the Black Sea through Istanbul.
Additionally, Russia has engaged in discussions regarding Putin’s proposal to provide Turkey with up to 1 million tonnes of Russian grain at discounted rates for further processing at Turkish facilities and subsequent shipment to nations facing the most pressing food shortages.