Türkiye working against end of Black Sea grain deal and resulting fallout: President

Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he will discuss Black Sea grain deal with Russia’s Putin, adding: ‘I believe we will ensure continuation of humanitarian arrangement’
Diyar Guldogan |
21.07.2023 – Update : 21.07.2023


Ending the Black Sea grain deal as announced this week would hit hard in numerous ways, warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, adding that Türkiye is already working to prevent this.

“The termination of the Black Sea grain initiative will have a range of (harmful) effects, ranging from raising global food prices, in some regions to famine, and then new waves of migration. We do not hesitate to take the initiative to prevent this,” Erdogan told reporters on Thursday on the presidential plane returning from a three-nation Gulf tour.

“I believe that by discussing the issue in detail with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, we will ensure the continuation of this humanitarian movement,” he added, hinting at Türkiye’s unique role as a country on good terms with both Russia and Ukraine, which helped it originally broker the deal along with the UN.

On July 17, Russia suspended its participation in the deal, which it signed last July along with Türkiye, the UN, and Ukraine to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports paused after the Russia-Ukraine war began in February. But even when renewing the deal in previous months, Moscow has complained that the Russian part of the agreement was not being implemented.

Erdogan said Putin has expectations from Western countries on the grain deal, adding: “Western countries need to take action in this regard.”

Under the landmark deal, more than 33 million tons of grain was shipped from Ukrainian ports, preventing a global food crisis, he said, adding: “The continuation of such a vital initiative in terms of its results is for the benefit of humanity.”

Erdogan denied rumors that Türkiye’s importance in mediation between Russia and Ukraine has fallen.

“On the contrary, we are currently maintaining our relations with Russia. Both Foreign Minister Hakan (Fidan), and (National Intelligence Organization) MIT head Ibrahim (Kalin) continue their negotiations,” Erdogan added.

Talks with Putin

The president added that he might soon have a phone call with Putin without waiting for a possible August meeting.

Previously, Erdogan said Putin is expected to visit Türkiye in August to discuss bilateral relations and regional issues, including the Black Sea grain deal.

“Russia also has some expectations. If these are met, Russia is in favor of active operation of this grain corridor,” he added.

Türkiye will use all its diplomatic tools to make sure the Black Sea grain deal resumes, he said, adding: “A consensus has been reached that serves humanity in a war environment, and we will do our best to keep it going.

He said hopefully: “I believe that we will ensure the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative before the process is prolonged.”

Türkiye, internationally praised for its unique mediator role between Ukraine and Russia, has repeatedly called on Kyiv and Moscow to end the war, now over 500 days old, through negotiations.

Gulf tour

Turning to this week’s three-nation Gulf tour, which included Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE, Erdogan said regional issues should be addressed through regional cooperation.

“In this respect, we agreed on the continuation of our consultation and coordination on regional issues,” he added.

Türkiye has entered a new era in its bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia, said Erdogan, adding that Ankara furthered its cooperation with five agreements it signed with Riyadh.

Türkiye and Qatar marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Erdogan said, adding that he agreed with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to further extend “excellent” cooperation in various fields.

During his visit to the UAE, Erdogan said Ankara and Abu Dhabi signed a total of 13 deals worth $50.7 billion.

There is a substantial potential between Türkiye and the UAE in the areas of trade and investment, Erdogan said, adding: “With the joint agreement we signed, we have raised our relations to the level of a strategic partnership. We established a high-level strategic council mechanism. With the establishment of the mechanism, we have provided a platform where we can discuss issues on our agenda at the highest level.”

The Gulf visit saw the signing of “the biggest” defense and aerospace export contracts in Turkish history, he said.

“All these agreements, beyond their monetary rewards, are signs of the Gulf countries’ trust in Türkiye’s economy and industry,” he added.

Sweden’s NATO bid

On Sweden’s pending NATO membership bid, Erdogan said Stockholm’s accession to the alliance is at the discretion of the Turkish parliament.

At a recent NATO summit in Lithuania, Erdogan agreed to forward to the Turkish parliament Sweden’s bid to join NATO for a ratification vote. As parliament is currently on summer recess, it will take up the legislation this fall. All current members of NATO have to agree to any new additions.

Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership shortly after Russia launched its war on Ukraine in February 2022.

Although Türkiye approved Finland’s membership to NATO, it is waiting for Sweden to fulfill its commitments not to provide shelter to terrorists and supporters of terrorists and not to facilitate their actions.

“We will follow the promises and guarantees given by the Swedish side. We will take action according to the steps Sweden takes,” Erdogan explained.

“Türkiye joining the EU – a nation that is the locomotive of NATO, with its second-strongest army – will also add vitality and strength to the union,” Erdogan said.

Sweden can boost its NATO bid by taking concrete steps in the fight against terror groups and extraditing terrorists, Erdogan stressed, adding: “We look forward to the fulfillment of promises and guarantees.”

Ties with Egypt

At meetings with leaders during his Gulf visit, Erdogan said they thanked Türkiye for its steps on its relations with Egypt.

Earlier this month, Türkiye and Egypt raised their diplomatic ties to the level of embassies and mutually named ambassadors.

Diplomatic relations between Türkiye and Egypt had been at the level of charges d’affaires since 2013.

“The development with Egypt, the appointment of ambassadors, is a new development in the region for us. I saw that they were satisfied by this,” said Erdogan.

“Of course, now both our ministers and our businesspeople are developing their relations with Egypt. Developing relations with Egypt will also significantly increase our economic potential,” Erdogan said.

Citing last year’s agreement between Türkiye and Libya on cooperation over hydrocarbons, Erdogan said Türkiye’s relations with Egypt will also develop in a unique way.

“For example, I hope to pay a visit to Libya. Along with Libya, maybe we can organize a tour, just like the Gulf tour, by visiting some countries in North Africa. Because you can’t get anywhere without doing this,” he added.

Upcoming visits from Palestine, Israel

Erdogan said that next week he will separately host Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Türkiye.

The meeting with Abbas will be on July 25, followed by Netanyahu on July 28. They will discuss bilateral relations and regional and international issues.

“With these visits, we will take some steps and the process will be accelerated,” Erdogan said.

Ankara strongly supports a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, including the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Asked about Israeli media reports on transferring Israel’s natural gas from the Mediterranean to Europe via Türkiye, Erdogan said: “The healthiest project here is to deliver natural gas to Europe via Türkiye.”

Otherwise, natural gas shipment costs from the Mediterranean to Europe are too high, he said.

Erdogan said if the natural gas is transferred through Türkiye, Ankara will have entered a profitable process for using the gas, and will also have the opportunity to transfer it to Europe at a certain rate.

“By taking this step, this is the first time we are making contact with Netanyahu. It is my hope that this development will be the beginning of a much warmer period in Turkish-Israeli ties,” he added.

Ties with Greece

During a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Lithuania, Erdogan said he discussed Greece arming islands in the Aegean Sea.

“This is not just because of Greece, as you know, their friends in the White House and the lobby are constantly provoking them. As a result of this provocation, undesirable things occur from time to time,” he added.

Erdogan added that Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan is in contact with his Greek counterpart.

Türkiye, a NATO member for over 70 years, has protested repeated provocative actions and rhetoric by Greece in the region in recent years, including arming islands near Turkish shores that are demilitarized under treaty obligations, saying such moves frustrate its good faith efforts towards peace.

Northern Cyprus

About the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Erdogan said Türkiye will work for the security, welfare and well-being of the Turkish Cypriots, and continue its diplomatic efforts for the island to achieve a just and lasting peace.

Thanks to Türkiye’s efforts, Erdogan added that the TRNC recently gained observer status at the Organization of Turkic States (OTS).

“We are working on what can be done by spreading this from the Turkic world to the whole world. We say this to the West through bilateral meetings and lobbying activities.

“It is our hope that, after the Turkic world, we can take these steps with the Gulf countries and also by making the West feel this,” he added.

Following his three-day Gulf tour, Erdogan visited the TRNC, where he attended the opening ceremony of a newly renovated and expanded Ercan Airport.

Türkiye fully supports a two-state solution on the island of Cyprus based on sovereign equality and equal international status.

Syrian refugees

Ankara is currently working on the voluntary return of Syrian refugees in Türkiye to their country, Erdogan said.

“The construction of briquette houses in northern Syria continues. We have now reached the figure of 100,000-150,000 briquette houses. As we did this, our Syrian refugee brothers started to return,” he said, adding that already about one million refugees have returned.

“These numbers will go up in the future. In particular, Qatar supports the project in northern Syria. I believe that as this project progresses, the return of refugees will grow even more,” Erdogan added.

More than 3.7 million Syrians currently reside in Türkiye, making it the world’s top refugee-hosting country.

Following the start of a civil war in Syria in 2011, Türkiye adopted an “open-door” policy for Syrians fleeing persecution and brutality.

Türkiye’s foreign policy

Türkiye is an “important actor” in the regional and global arena, and is forging friendly relations with the West, the Middle East, the Far East, Africa, and Arab regions all at once, Erdogan said.

“We have been carrying out a principled and determined foreign policy since the first day,” he added.

Türkiye has always advocated strengthening ties by resolving conflicts, Erdogan said, adding: “Turkish foreign policy is always on an axis based on national interests.”