Turkey Willing to Facilitate Food Exports from Ukraine and Russia

As the world supply of grain and other agricultural goods is under threat, the Turkish government has said that it is willing to serve as a “facilitator” of exports from areas impacted by the war in Ukraine. Russia has stated that it will lift its blockade of Ukrainian ports in exchange for sanctions relief from the West, but no progress has been made.

The Hürriyet Daily News in Turkey reported on Wednesday that the proposal would help move grains, sunflower oil, and fertilizer from the areas impacted by the Russian invasion onto the world market where the products are in short supply.

Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that the Turkish government has been negotiating with Ukrainian, Russian, and United Nations officials. Kalin said the talks are focused on bringing products through ports that have been effectively blocked since the Russian invasion began in February.

Kalin also said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has had detailed discussions directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

According to the spokesman, Erdoğan has told each leader in separate discussions that Turkey wishes to act as a neutral “facilitator” in order to allow the food products to safely move into the international market. The reports state that Putin and Zelensky both “responded positively.”

Erdoğan reportedly spoke most recently to Putin and Zelensky in separate calls last weekend. The Turkish official readout of the call with Putin on May 30 reportedly did not contain any “reference to food.” A readout issued by the Russian government indicated that there was a discussion of “ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov seas.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters this week that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be making an official visit to Turkey on June 8 in order to continue discussions about facilitating exports as the war continues. That meeting is expected to directly address the possibility of “opening a security corridor” for shipping in the Black Sea.

Cavusoglu told reporters that establishing a control center in Istanbul to “observe the corridor” is the most important issue to be discussed in the next week.

Products from both Ukraine and Russia have been largely blocked from export since Russia began its invasion on February 24. Ukraine’s limitations have been largely logistical due to physical constraints. Russia has been mostly hampered by various economic sanctions imposed by Western nations in response to the invasion.

As agricultural products remain stuck in Eastern Europe, the threat of food security in Africa is increasing rapidly and food prices internationally are surging.