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Putin set to meet Erdogan to discuss Black Sea grain deal

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Vladimir Putin on Monday, hoping to persuade the Russian leader to join the Black Sea grain deal that Moscow broke in July.

Here are some key things to know and the issues:

The meeting 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 visit Turkey in August.

The Kremlin refused to renew the grain deal six weeks ago. The deal – brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022 – had allowed nearly 33 million metric tons (36 million tons) of grain and other products to safely leave three Ukrainian ports despite the war Russian.

However, Russia pulled out after claiming that a side deal promising to remove barriers to Russian food and fertilizer exports had not been honoured.

Moscow has complained that restrictions on shipping and insurance are hampering its agricultural trade, even as it has shipped record amounts of wheat since last year.

Since Putin pulled out of the initiative, Erdogan has repeatedly pledged to renew agreements that averted a food crisis in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other products that developing countries depend on.

Turkey’s president has maintained close ties with Putin during Ukraine’s 18-month war. Turkey did not join Western sanctions against Russia after its invasion, becoming a major trading partner and logistics hub for Russia’s foreign trade.

However, NATO member Turkey has also supported Ukraine, sending it arms, meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and supporting Kiev’s NATO bid.

Erdogan angered Moscow in July when he allowed five Ukrainian commanders to return home. The soldiers had been captured by Russia and handed over to Turkey on the condition that they remain there for the duration of the war.

Putin and Erdogan – both authoritarian leaders in power for more than two decades – are said to have a close relationship, strengthened following the failed coup against Erdogan in 2016, when Putin was the first major leader to offer his support .

Traditional rivals Turkey and Russia grew closer in subsequent years as trade levels rose and they embarked on joint projects such as the Turkstream gas pipeline and Turkey’s first nuclear power plant. Ankara’s relations with Moscow have often alarmed its Western allies. The 2019 acquisition of Russian-made air defense missiles led Washington to exclude Turkey from the US-led F-35 stealth fighter program.

Russian-Turkish relations in areas such as energy, defence, diplomacy, tourism and trade have flourished despite the countries being on opposite sides in the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Upper Karabakh. Since Erdogan’s re-election in May, Putin has faced domestic challenges that could make him seem like a less reliable partner, including the short-lived armed rebellion declared by late mercenary leader Eugene Prigozhin in June.

The Sochi summit follows talks between the Russian and Turkish foreign ministers on Thursday, in which Russia outlined a list of actions the West should take to get Ukrainian exports to the Black Sea resumed.

Erdogan expressed sympathy for Putin’s position. In July, he said Putin had “certain expectations from Western countries” regarding the Black Sea deal and that it was “crucial for these countries to act on it”.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently sent Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ‘concrete proposals’ to steer Russian exports to global markets and enable the resumption of the Black Sea Initiative . But Lavrov said Moscow was unhappy with the letter.

Describing Turkey’s “intense” efforts to revive the deal, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said it was a “process that tries to better understand Russia’s position and demands, and respond to it”.

He added: “There are many issues ranging from financial transactions to insurance. »

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