Ankara is offering to serve as a middle-man for shipping Ukrainian grain and sunflower oil to the global market, the president says
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has presented an idea for facilitating agricultural exports from Ukraine, which he wants to discuss with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky, in the coming days.
Turkey could serve as an intermediary in shipping Ukrainian goods, including grain, barley, oats and sunflower oil, Erdogan told reporters after attending Friday prayers in Istanbul. The country has stockpiles and merchant ships necessary for such an arrangement, he said.
Kiev and Western nations have accused Russia of blocking food exports from Ukraine's Black Sea ports, allegedly contributing to surging global food prices. Moscow denies the allegation, saying it has been offering safe passage to freighters, but that Ukraine is preventing civilian ships from leaving cities including Odessa. Russia also says Ukraine's deployment of sea mines has created a threat to shipping in the area.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday in Madrid, where he participated in the NATO summit, Erdogan said he intended to have phone conversations with Putin and Zelensky. The Turkish leader said his government wanted to make sure that a "grain corridor starts working as soon as possible".
Earlier in the week, the Turkish leader touted his mediation between Russia and Ukraine to his American counterpart, Joe Biden, saying Ankara's "balanced policy" towards Moscow - which contrasts with the aggressive posture of other NATO members - could soon yield results.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev's failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev's main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and "create powerful armed forces."
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.