In a rare diplomatic rendezvous, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi to discuss various issues, most notably the stalled Black Sea Grain Initiative. The deal, initially brokered by Türkiye and the United Nations, allowed Ukrainian grain to reach global markets despite the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Erdoğan arrived with a high-level delegation that included ministers of defense, foreign affairs, energy, and finance. Both leaders expressed optimism for the discussions. Putin stated he was “open” to talks to restore the grain deal. At the same time, Erdoğan promised a “significant” announcement following the summit, particularly beneficial to “underdeveloped African countries” suffering from food shortages.

Moscow previously suspended the deal, citing that the West had failed to meet obligations related to Russia’s food and fertilizer exports. Russia has also expressed concerns that not enough Ukrainian grain was being routed to nations most in need. Meanwhile, the United States and other Western countries have imposed sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, complicating financial logistics around grain exports.

Türkiye has sought a mediator role between Russia and Ukraine while opposing the invasion and the Western sanctions imposed on Russia. Erdoğan, who has maintained good relations with Putin, has also played a significant role in prisoner exchanges between the warring countries.

In terms of bilateral relations, Erdoğan announced his intentions to raise annual trade with Russia from $62 billion to $100 billion, with a focus on trading in local currencies. Both leaders also discussed creating a “hub” in Türkiye for Russian gas exports amidst increasing bilateral ties in the energy sector.

The meeting comes amid rising global food prices and concerns over food security, with the UN pointing out that the 18-month war between Russia and Ukraine has exacerbated the crisis. With no representatives from the U.N. or Ukraine present at the meeting, the world awaits the outcomes of the discussion and its potential implications on the global food supply.

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