With grain deal in focus, Putin to meet Erdogan in Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will try to convince Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin to return to a Ukraine grain export deal that helped ease a global food crisis, when the two leaders meet in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday.

Russia quit the deal in July – a year after it was brokered by the United Nations 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 spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the talks with Erdogan, who previously played a significant role in convincing Putin to stick with the deal, would take place in the middle of the day, Moscow time.

“We play a leading role here,” Erdogan’s chief foreign policy and security advisor Akif Cagatay Kilic said in an interview on A Haber television channel.

“The current status (of the grain deal) will be discussed at the summit on Monday. We are cautious, but we hope to achieve success,” Kilic said.

The deal was aimed at getting grain from Ukraine to world markets through the Black Sea and easing a global food crisis that the United Nations said had been worsened by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

Russia and Ukraine are two of the world’s key agricultural producers, and major players in the wheat, barley, maize, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, sunflower seed and sunflower oil markets.

Putin has repeatedly said the West was to blame for Russia leaving the deal because it had failed to implement a separate memorandum agreed with the United Nations.

But Putin has also said Russia could return to the grain deal if the West fulfils its side of the deal.


U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday that he had sent Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “a set of concrete proposals” aimed at reviving the deal.

To convince Russia to approve the original deal a three-year accord was struck at the same time under which U.N. officials agreed to help it with its own food and fertiliser exports.

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 2022.

Russia, though, wants implementation. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said on Saturday that things that were implied had not been implemented last time. In its report on the Erdogan meeting, Russian state television said the promises made to Russia must be implemented.

Russia has also been discussing a Putin 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.

For Russia, Erdogan is a key broker – and one respected personally by Putin. It is their first in-person meeting since October.

Ahead of Monday’s meeting, U.S. wheat prices closed lower on Friday as markets weighed tight global stocks against the prospect of hefty Russian wheat production and efforts to renew a Black Sea grain deal.

Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, said Russia launched an overnight air attack on one of Ukraine’s major grain exporting ports.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; additional reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne, Ece Toksabay in Ankara and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; editing by Robert Birsel)

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