ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Vladimir Putin on Monday in hopes of persuading the Russian leader to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal that Moscow withdrew from in July.
Here are some key things to know and what’s at stake:
WHERE WILL THE CONVERSATIONS BE HOLD?
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 travel to Turkey in August.
WHY DID RUSSIA LEAVE THE GRAN DEAL?
The Kremlin refused to renew the grain deal six weeks ago. The deal — brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022 — allowed nearly 33 million tons (36 million metric tons) of grain and other commodities to safely leave three Ukrainian ports despite the Russian war.
However, Russia backed out after claiming that a parallel agreement that promised to remove obstacles to Russian exports of food and fertilizer had failed.
Moscow complained that restrictions on shipping and insurance hindered agricultural trade, even as the country has shipped record quantities of wheat since last year.
WHY IS TURKEY A BROKER?
Since Putin pulled out of the initiative, Erdogan has repeatedly pledged to renew the arrangements that helped avoid 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 commodities on which developing countries depend.
The Turkish president maintained close ties with Putin during Ukraine’s 18-month war. Turkey has not joined Western sanctions against Russia after the invasion and has become a major trading partner and logistical hub for Russian overseas trade.
However, NATO member Turkey has also supported Ukraine by sending weapons, meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and supporting Kiev’s bid to join NATO.
Relations between Russia and Turkey have not always been rosy
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 who have been in power for more than 20 years — are said to have a close relationship, which arose in the aftermath of a failed coup against Erdogan in 2016, when Putin was the first major leader to take his offered support.
Traditional rivals Turkey and Russia grew closer in subsequent years as trade levels rose and embarked on joint projects such as the Turkstream gas pipeline and Turkey’s first nuclear power plant. Ankara’s relations with Moscow have repeatedly alarmed Western allies. The 2019 acquisition of Russian-made air defense missiles led Washington to kick Turkey out of the US-led F-35 stealth fighter program.
Relations between Russia and Turkey in areas such as energy, defence, diplomacy, tourism and trade have blossomed, despite the countries facing off against each other in the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. Since Erdogan’s re-election in May, Putin has faced domestic challenges that may make him seem a less reliable partner, most notably the short-lived armed uprising that the late mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin called in June.
WHAT ARE RUSSIA’S REQUIREMENTS?
The Sochi summit follows talks between Russian and Turkish foreign ministers on Thursday, in which Russia handed over a list of actions the West should take to resume Ukrainian exports to the Black Sea.
Erdogan has expressed sympathy for Putin’s position. In July, he said Putin had “certain expectations from Western countries” about the Black Sea agreement and that it was “critical for these countries to take action in this regard.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently sent Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “concrete proposals” aimed at getting Russian exports to world markets and enabling the resumption of the Black Sea initiative. But Lavrov said Moscow was not satisfied with the letter.
Describing Turkey’s “intensive” efforts to revive the agreement, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said it is a “process that seeks to better understand and comply with Russia’s position and requests.” ”
He added: “There are many issues ranging from financial transactions to insurance.”
Elise Morton reported from London.