The Russian leader’s position is that Erdoğan can help renew the deal, which is vital to global food supply.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated his stance on re-establishing a United Nations-brokered agreement to safely send Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea, only after meeting Western demands on Moscow’s agricultural exports.
The Russian president’s comments on Monday came after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Black Sea city of Sochi in hopes of renewing the deal, which is seen as crucial to global food supplies, particularly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Russia refused to extend the agreement in July, complaining that a side agreement promising to remove barriers to Russian food and fertilizer exports was not being honored. It said restrictions on shipping and insurance were hampering its agricultural trade, although large volumes of wheat had been exported since last year.
Putin reiterated those complaints and said the Black Sea corridors should not be used for military purposes. If those promises are honored, Russia could return to the deal “within days,” he told reporters.
Erdogan also expressed hope that a breakthrough could come soon. Turkey and the UN – both brokers of the original deal – have put together new plans to stem the tide, he said.
“We believe that the initiative should continue by correcting the shortcomings,” said the Turkish president, who has been acting as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia. It was the first meeting between the two leaders since Erdogan was re-elected president for a third term in May.
The United States and the European Union have dismissed Moscow’s complaints as without merit, saying their sanctions are not targeted
Russian grains and fertilizers.
Failure to renew the deal would have “serious implications” for many African countries that rely heavily on Ukrainian and Russian grain, experts say.
In an attempt to address that, Putin told reporters in Sochi that Moscow is weeks away from giving free grain to six African countries.
“We are close to concluding agreements with six African countries where we want to provide free food and free distribution and logistics,” he said.
“Deliveries will begin in the next two weeks.”
The Russian leader alleged that much of the grain exported through the Black Sea Treaty went to the West instead of poor countries.
Confidence in Turkey is shattered
Hopes were high in Turkey that Erdogan would convince Putin to return to the Black Sea grain deal, Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar reported from Istanbul.
“Officials here say they are trying to convince some Western countries to allow Russia to return to the international payment system,” Serdar said, adding that insurance companies will now also cover Russian ships. Carry Russian grain and fertilizers.
“If that happens it will be a major step forward. [It means] “Russia is going to defy international sanctions, especially those imposed by the West,” he added.
Erdogan maintained a close relationship with Putin during the 18-month war in Ukraine. Turkey, which did not join Western sanctions against Russia following its full-scale invasion, has emerged as a key trading partner and logistics hub for Russia’s foreign trade.
However, NATO member Turkey has also supported Ukraine, sending arms, meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and backing Kiev’s bid to join the alliance.
‘Ukraine is finding ways to export its grain’
According to Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride in Kiev, the outcome of the meeting in Sochi was treated “cynically” in Ukraine.
“People [are] It was Russia that invaded Ukraine and turned the Black Sea into a war zone, pointing to Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s grain export infrastructure,” McBride said.
Russia has intensified drone and missile attacks on Ukrainian grain ports and storage infrastructure. Ukraine claims tens of thousands of tons of grain were destroyed in the process.
Ukraine has set up its own corridor since the end of the grain deal – from the port of Odessa – but Russia has threatened to treat all ships arriving at Ukrainian ports as potential military targets.
“We have two ships going from Odessa to the Black Sea,” McBride said.
“Ukraine is finding ways to export grain with or without Russia’s help.”
‘Russia increases global hunger’
The European Union has condemned recent Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure used to export grain.
A spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Joseph Borel said the attacks show how Russia’s actions are driving up global food prices and putting millions of vulnerable people around the world at risk.
Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbach slammed Putin’s decision to block the Black Sea grain deal, accusing him of playing “cynical” games.
Baerbach said Erdogan’s efforts to “get the deal back on track” were crucial.
“It’s only because of Putin that cargo ships don’t have free passage again,” he said, referring to ships loaded with Ukrainian grain that have been stuck in the country’s Black Sea ports since July.
“Russia is fueling global hunger,” he said.