Can Turkey bring Russia back into the grain deal?

Can Turkey bring Russia back into the grain deal?

 Can Turkey bring Russia back into the grain deal?

Russia exits the grain deal

Recent events in Ukraine have had a severe impact on global grain supplies and food security. Russia’s actions, including bombing grain stores and pulling out of a crucial deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, have disrupted the safe passage of food exports through the Black Sea. This deal was a lifeline for millions of people in 79 countries who depend on Ukraine’s grain exports.

One of the sites destroyed was a grain terminal owned by Ukraine’s major producer, Kernel, resulting in the loss of over 60,000 tonnes of grain in the past week. The halt in exports during the war caused significant price increases in oil and grain, and the recent developments are leading to a similar trend. Global grain prices surged by 8% within a day of Russia’s withdrawal from the deal, marking the highest daily rise since its invasion of Ukraine last year.

In response to the situation, Russian President Vladimir Putin claims that Russia can replace Ukrainian grain on a commercial and free-of-charge basis, citing expectations of another record harvest this year. President Putin expressed Russia’s commitment to providing supplies of grain, food products, and other goods to Africa in an article published ahead of the Russia-Africa summit.

However, the repercussions of the grain deal’s collapse extend beyond Ukraine’s ports. With damaged infrastructure and Russia controlling most of the coastline, Ukraine’s grain export capacity is expected to drop by 50%. This poses a significant challenge for Ukrainian farmers, who may have to sell their products at a loss, resulting in fewer people working on less land in the future.

The situation has raised concerns about food insecurity in many regions, with the United Nations’ International Rescue Committee previously hailing the deal as a lifeline for millions of people facing food insecurity on the front lines. The disruption caused by Russia’s actions has highlighted the vulnerability of global grain markets and the need for diplomatic solutions to ensure the stability of food supplies for those in need.

Odesa’s mayor, Gennady Trukhanov, believes that Russia’s actions are an attempt to assert control over grain exports in the region. With no agreed corridor through the Black Sea and damaged ports, the situation is becoming increasingly dire for Ukraine’s grain trade.

The current developments underscore the critical importance of finding diplomatic resolutions and protecting essential infrastructure to safeguard food supplies and mitigate the impact of conflicts on global food security. Both Russia and Ukraine, as leading grain exporters, hold significant responsibility in ensuring stability in these crucial markets.

Turkey attempting to bring Russia back

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has expressed hope that his planned talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin could lead to the restoration of the Black Sea grain initiative. Speaking to reporters on a flight back from Gulf countries and northern Cyprus, Erdogan warned that the termination of the Black Sea grain deal could have far-reaching consequences, including increased global food prices, regional scarcity, and potential waves of migration.

Erdogan emphasized the humanitarian importance of the deal and believes that thorough discussions with President Putin can help ensure its continuation. Moscow has stated that it will only return to the agreement if its demands for easier access to world markets for its food and fertiliser exports are met. In response, Western countries have noted that Russia faces no obstacles in selling food due to its exemption from financial sanctions.

The United States is looking to Turkey to play a leading role in persuading Russia to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal. Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted Turkey’s critical position in facilitating the restoration of the agreement during his remarks at the Aspen Security Forum.

Turkish security sources have reiterated their commitment to preserving the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, which ensures the safe passage of ships under the deal. Turkey desires the continuation of the original four-way agreement, and the situation of Turkish ships waiting in Ukrainian ports is being carefully monitored to facilitate their safe return to Turkey.

The Black Sea grain initiative is vital for global food security, and Turkey’s leadership and diplomatic efforts are essential in encouraging Russia to re-engage in the deal. The collaboration between Turkey, Russia, and other involved parties is crucial in ensuring the uninterrupted flow of grain and maintaining reasonable food prices for people worldwide. The continuation of this initiative is of utmost importance to alleviate food scarcity and support humanitarian efforts.

Russia may be forced to return

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to pull out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allowed Ukrainian grain exports, is a risky move that could have severe repercussions on Moscow’s relations with its international partners. While Putin’s immediate goal is to seek relief from Western sanctions on Russia’s agricultural exports, his longer-term strategy may involve trying to weaken Western resolve over Ukraine and obtain more concessions as the conflict continues.

However, the West has shown little willingness to give in, and Putin’s actions not only threaten global food security but could also backfire against Russia’s own interests. This may cause concern in China, strain Moscow’s relations with its key partner Turkey, and impact its ties with African countries.

Turkey’s crucial role as a trading partner and logistical hub for Russia’s foreign trade amid Western sanctions could empower President Erdogan to negotiate concessions from Putin. Their relationship has been complicated, with Erdogan making moves that appear to align more with the West, which may have disappointed Moscow.

Russia might attempt to pressure Erdogan by challenging Turkey’s interests in northwestern Syria, where Ankara supports armed opposition groups. Despite their differences, Russia and Turkey have negotiated cease-fire agreements in the past. However, Russia recently vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution supported by most members to continue humanitarian aid deliveries through the Bab el-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, indicating a tougher stance.

Russia’s reliance on support from African countries may eventually lead to a re-entry into the grain deal. Although the Kremlin has claimed readiness to provide free grain to poor African countries after exiting the Black Sea deal, its feasibility remains uncertain, and it could be seen as a bluff.

Putin’s actions reflect a high-stakes gamble that could have wide-ranging implications on international relations, global food security, and Russia’s standing in the world. The situation remains unpredictable, and the outcomes of these diplomatic maneuvers will shape the dynamics of the ongoing conflict and Russia’s engagement with the international community.

Erdogan’s efforts have an increasingly good chance of succeeding in bringing Russia back to the grain deal, despite Russia’s current stance.

Hazem Zahab

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