What’s at stake in the upcoming Erdogan-Putin meeting?

Monday’s meeting in Sochi comes amid international efforts to patch up the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Putin and Erdogan
Erdogan has maintained close ties with Putin during the 18-month war in Ukraine [Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to meet Vladimir Putin on Monday, hoping to persuade the Russian leader to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal that Moscow broke off from in July.

The meeting, to take place in Sochi on Russia’s southern coast, comes after weeks of speculation about when and where the two leaders might meet. Erdogan previously said Putin would travel to Turkey in August.

Here are some key things to know and what’s at stake at the meeting:

Why did Russia leave the grain deal?

The Kremlin refused to renew the grain agreement about six weeks ago. The deal – brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022 – had allowed nearly 33 million tonnes of grain and other commodities to leave three Ukrainian ports safely despite the invasion by Russia.

However, Russia pulled out after claiming that a parallel deal promising to remove obstacles to Russian exports of food and fertiliser had not been honoured.

It also complained that restrictions on shipping and insurance hampered its agricultural trade, even though it has shipped record amounts of wheat since last year.

INTERACTIVE_UKRAINE_RUSSIA - grain deal_July17_2023

Why is Turkey a broker?

Since Putin withdrew from the initiative, Erdogan has repeatedly pledged to renew arrangements that helped avoid a food crisis in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan met Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on Friday, saying at a briefing in the Russian capital on Thursday that reviving the deal was important for the world.

Ukraine and Russia are leading suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other goods that developing nations rely on.

Erdogan has maintained close ties with Putin during the 18-month war in Ukraine. Turkey has not joined Western sanctions against Russia following its invasion, emerging as a main trading partner and logistical hub for Russia’s overseas trade.

NATO member Turkey, however, has also supported Ukraine, sending arms, meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and backing Kyiv’s bid to join the alliance.

What are Russia’s demands?

The Sochi summit follows talks between the Russian and Turkish foreign ministers on Thursday, during which Russia handed over a list of actions that the West would have to take for Ukraine’s Black Sea exports to resume.

US wheat prices rose on Friday, a day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow saw no sign that it would receive the guarantees needed to revive the grain deal.

Erdogan has showed sympathy with Putin’s position. In July, he said Putin had “certain expectations from Western countries” over the deal and that it was “crucial for these countries to take action in this regard”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently sent Lavrov “concrete proposals” aimed at getting Russian exports to global markets and allowing the resumption of the Black Sea initiative. But Lavrov said Moscow was not satisfied with the letter.

Describing Turkey’s “intense” efforts to revive the agreement, Turkey’s Fidan said it was a “process that tries to better understand Russia’s position and requests, and to meet them”.

FILE - A family sit on a rock in front of a cargo ship anchors in the Marmara Sea awaits to access to cross the Bosphorus Straits in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 13, 2022. Shipping companies are not rushing to export millions of tons of trapped grain out of Ukraine, despite a breakthrough deal to provide safe corridors through the Black Sea. That is because the waters are mined, ship owners are still assessing the risks and many still have questions over how the deal will unfold. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)
A cargo ship anchors in the Sea of Marmara, awaiting access to cross the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul in July 2022 [File: Khalil Hamra/AP Photo]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies