Moscow — Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold talks with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday as Ankara and the UN seek to revive a Ukraine grain export deal that helped ease a global food crisis.
Russia quit the deal in July — a year after it was brokered by the UN and Turkey — complaining that its own food and fertiliser exports faced obstacles and that not enough Ukrainian grain was going to countries in need.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Erdogan, who previously played a role in persuading Putin to stick with the deal, would hold talks with the Kremlin chief in Sochi on Monday but gave no further details.
Turkish foreign minister Hakan Fidan met Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on Friday to discuss grain ahead of the Erdogan meeting. Shoigu said it was not Russia’s fault that the grain deal had failed and repeated the Russian position that Moscow would return to it if all the promises made to Russia were fulfilled.
“It’s not our fault today, but it’s stopped,” Shoigu said in a statement released by the defence ministry. “Here we can say only one thing, that if everything that was promised to Russia is fulfilled, the deal will be extended. It turned out that it is more difficult to do this than to build new corridors, new ground routes.”
The Black Sea grain deal was intended to combat a global food crisis that the UN said had been worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year. Moves are afoot to revive the deal.
UN secretary-general António Guterres said he had sent Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov “a set of concrete proposals” aimed at reviving a deal that allowed the safe export of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea. Turkey’s foreign minister said at a briefing in Moscow that reviving the deal was important for the world.
US wheat prices rose on Friday, though Lavrov said Russia saw no sign that it would receive the guarantees needed to revive the grain deal. Lavrov said the West was hyping the talk of a global food crisis as prices remained around 2021 levels and had ignored Putin’s pledge to supply Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic and Eritrea with up to 50,000 tonnes of grain each free of charge.
To convince Moscow to approve the original deal, known by diplomats as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a three-year accord was struck at the same time under which UN officials agreed to help Russia with its own food and fertiliser exports. But Moscow said that memorandum had not been honoured due to the perfidy of the West.
Lavrov said he had discussed Putin’s initiative to supply up to 1-million tonnes of Russian grain to Turkey at reduced prices for subsequent processing at Turkish plants and shipping to countries most in need. That proposal is also being discussed with Qatar.
One of Moscow’s main demands is for the Russian Agricultural Bank to be reconnected to the SWIFT international payments system. The EU cut it off in June last year.
While Russian exports of food and fertiliser are not subject to Western sanctions imposed after Russia's invasion, Moscow has said restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have hindered shipments.
Two cargo vessels left a port near Odesa, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said on Friday — the third and fourth to transit from deepwater Ukrainian ports through the Black Sea since Russia withdrew from the safe-passage deal.
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