Russia-Ukraine War: No Breakthrough on Grain Deal After Putin and Erdogan Meet

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey in Sochi, Russia, on Monday, in a photo released by the Turkish president’s office.Credit…Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO, via Reuters

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia restated his opposition on Monday to the internationally backed Black Sea grain deal, a sign that little progress was made toward reviving the agreement after bilateral talks with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Amid an international push to revive the deal, which Turkey helped broker and which had allowed Ukraine to safely export tens of millions of tons of grain through the Black Sea, Mr. Putin reiterated a litany of complaints about the accord and said that Russia was prepared to re-enter the deal only after Western nations addressed its concerns.

Moscow withdrew from the agreement in July and has since repeatedly bombarded Ukrainian grain facilities and threatened civilian ships heading to Ukrainian ports. Those attacks continued on Monday as Russia fired drones at the southern Odesa region for the second straight day, targeting the Ukrainian side of the Danube River, which has emerged as an alternative shipping route amid Russia’s de facto blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast.

Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan met for about 90 minutes in Sochi, a Russian Black Sea resort, according to the Russian state news agency Tass. Addressing reporters afterward, Mr. Putin said that Western nations were still refusing to ease sanctions on Russian grain and fertilizer exports, resume deliveries of agricultural equipment and spare parts to Russia, or to solve problems facing Russian banking and insurance services.

Russia has said that the restrictions, which Western nations imposed after Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, have prevented it from exporting its own products as the deal brokered last summer had allowed.

“As I’ve already said, we were simply forced to take this decision,” Mr. Putin said, referring to Russia’s withdrawal from the agreement on July 18.

Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s largest grain exporters, and the deal had helped ease fears of a global food crisis.

In recent weeks, both Kyiv and Moscow have pushed proposals for a revised agreement that would circumvent the need for the other’s participation — while Turkey and the United Nations have been urging a resumption of the accord.

The secretary general of the United Nations, António Guterres, made overtures to Moscow last week, sending a letter to Russia’s foreign minister with a new set of proposals. Mr. Guterres told reporters in New York on Thursday that “we have some concrete solutions for the concerns allowing for an effective, or more effective access of Russian food and fertilizers to global markets at adequate prices.” He did not provide details.

Mr. Erdogan said on Monday that he believed the U.N. proposals could form the basis of a compromise to revive the deal. “We have been repeating the points our Russian friends have been articulating,” he said, adding: “I believe we will reach a solution in a short time.”

He also welcomed a Russian proposal to send 1 million metric tons of grain to poorer countries via Turkey or Qatar, an offer that Mr. Putin said was not an alternative to a broader agreement.

The Turkish president has frequently served as an emissary of sorts to Mr. Putin, to the occasional consternation of his allies in NATO, the Western alliance that Russia considers one of its primary foes. Russia, which has been searching for ways to evade Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, sees its relationship with Turkey as a possible route to easing the restrictions.

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