Erdoğan:Any initiative isolating Russia from grain deal bound to fail

by | Sep 11, 2023 | English

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By Daily Sabah,

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Sunday said any initiative that isolates Russia is unlikely to be sustainable and called for Moscow not to be “marginalized” in talks aimed at reviving a key deal to export Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.

Erdoğan said the issue of unblocking the Black Sea Grain Initiative was discussed in great detail at this weekend’s G-20 summit in India, held in the absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“No process that marginalizes Russia on the Black Sea Grain Initiative will be viable,” the president told a press briefing after the meeting in New Delhi.

The U.N. and Türkiye-brokered pact allowed Ukraine to export grain and other commodities from three Black Sea ports despite the 18-month war.

The deal was vital for global food supplies, especially in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other goods that developing nations rely on.

Within the framework of the pact, about 33 million tons of grain were delivered to international markets, Erdoğan said.

“Thanks to the initiative, we prevented the food crisis from deepening further,” he noted.

The pact collapsed after Russia pulled out in mid-July, complaining that a parallel agreement promising to remove obstacles to Russian exports of food and fertilizer hadn’t been honored and that insufficient Ukrainian grain was going to countries in need.

The G-20 declaration on Saturday called for “full, timely and effective implementation to ensure the immediate and unimpeded deliveries of grain, foodstuffs, and fertilizers/inputs” from Russia and Ukraine to meet demand in developing countries.

Supplies were obstructed after Russia invaded Ukraine last year in what Moscow calls a “special military operation.” The United Nations, Türkiye and this year’s G-7 chair, Japan, are trying to facilitate the resumption of grain supplies.

Since it quit the deal, Moscow has repeatedly attacked Ukraine’s port infrastructure in what Kyiv says is a cynical attempt to damage its exports and undermine global food security.

“We are of the opinion that any steps that may disturb the peace in the Black Sea and escalate the tension in the region should be avoided,” Erdoğan stressed.

Not ‘hopeless’

Erdoğan said he was not “hopeless” about reviving the grain deal and stressed that Russia, Ukraine and Türkiye will continue to discuss the agreement.

He announced a forthcoming meeting between representatives from Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations without specifying a precise date or location.

Türkiye has positioned itself to facilitate any peace talks between the warring sides. It has opposed the Russian invasion but also the Western sanctions on Moscow.

Erdoğan has maintained good relations with Putin and helped broker prisoner exchanges between the warring sides.

He has repeatedly called on the Western countries to consider Russia’s demands.

“We are making intense efforts to end the Russia-Ukraine war, which has cost hundreds of thousands of lives,” Erdoğan said on Sunday.

“We have undertaken many diplomatic moves, from the Istanbul Process, which brought the parties around the same table, to prisoner exchanges and the Black Sea Initiative.”

Russia is willing to send free grain to poorer countries, which Türkiye favors, he said, adding that Qatar had also agreed.

Putin last week said Moscow was close to finalizing an agreement that would facilitate free exports of grain from Russia to six African nations with the help of Türkiye and Qatar.

The proposal is not planned as an alternative to the Black Sea initiative, he said.

The deal would include a supply of up to 1 million metric tons of grain to countries most in need via Türkiye with financial support from Qatar. The grain will be sent for subsequent processing at Turkish plants before being shipped to the African nations.

Russian demands

Separately, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia will return to the grain deal “the same day” as Moscow’s conditions for export of its own grain and fertilizers to the global markets are met.

“When all the necessary actions for removing obstacles for our grain and fertilizer exports are implemented, the same day we will return to the collective implementation of the Ukrainian part of the ‘Black Sea initiative,’” Lavrov told a briefing after the G-20 summit.

Ukraine opposes the idea of easing sanctions on Russia to revive the grain deal. Moscow’s demands include returning its Agricultural Bank to the SWIFT payments system and insuring the ships involved in the initiative.

In a letter seen by Reuters this week, the U.N. told Russia a unit of the Russian Agricultural Bank in Luxembourg could immediately apply to SWIFT to “effectively enable access” for the bank to the SWIFT international payments system within 30 days – the idea Lavrov has dismissed on Sunday.

Lavrov said that “no one, including (U.N. Secretary-General Antonio) Guterres,” has promised that the Russian Agricultural Bank would be reconnected to SWIFT and that the bank’s Luxembourg unit has no license for banking operations and plans to close down.

“All the idea of his (Guterres) letter is that we should resume the Ukraine part of the grain deal and in return, in a month, something would be done for someone to be connected to SWIFT, in two-three months there would be some attempt to agree with Lloyd’s insurance company,” Lavrov said.

Erdoğan on Sunday said he would ask Guterres to send an updated version of the letter on the SWIFT channel and insurance.

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