Turkiye is “optimistic” that a deal could be reached soon on resuming Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea, its top diplomat said Thursday.
Talks between Turkiye, Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations about a Black Sea corridor are “going well so far,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told public broadcaster TRT Haber, adding he was hopeful about reaching a deal.
A day earlier, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkiye wants the general consensus reached at last week’s four-way talks in Istanbul on the U.N.-led plan to be put in writing this week and start to be implemented in the coming days.
Erdoğan told reporters after meeting his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a summit in Iran on Tuesday that he remained hopeful about an agreement.
Çavuşoğlu said he hoped to be able to announce “good news” on the talks in the coming days, but added there were still minor issues being discussed between the parties.
The sides were meant to meet again this week to potentially sign a formal agreement that would see a center to oversee a safe maritime shipping corridor in the Black Sea being established in Istanbul.
“We’re making sincere efforts to reach an agreement, both on the cease-fire (in the Ukraine war) and the removal of obstacles to grain exports,” Çavuşoğlu said.
“We hope to give good news in the coming days.”
Erdoğan has tried to use his good relations with Putin and Kyiv’s leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy to find a solution and continue negotiations about Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – two major global wheat suppliers – has sent prices for grains and other products soaring, fueling a global food crisis. It has stalled Kyiv’s exports, leaving dozens of ships stranded and some 22 million tons of grain stuck in silos at Ukrainian ports.
U.N agencies have warned that the lack of Ukrainian grain, which typically goes to the Middle East and Africa, is threatening starvation and mass migration on an “unprecedented scale.”
Ukraine urgently needs to export grain as its harvest starts this summer with farmers facing a lack of storage capacity.
Moscow has denied responsibility for worsening the food crisis, instead blaming the chilling effect of Western sanctions for slowing its food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for mining its Black Sea ports.
Ukraine and Russia are major global wheat suppliers, and the latter is also a large fertilizer exporter, while the former is a significant producer of corn and sunflower oil.
Putin on Tuesday said “progress” had been made in discussions towards exporting grain from Ukraine. Yet, he said any deal hinged on the West’s willingness to yield some ground.
“We will facilitate the export of Ukrainian grain, but we are proceeding from the fact that all restrictions related to possible deliveries for the export of Russian grain will be lifted,” he said.
Çavuşoğlu acknowledged Putin’s concerns.
“When we resolve this issue, not only will the export path for grain and sunflower oil from Ukraine be opened, but also for products from Russia,” he said.
“Even if these Russian products are not affected by sanctions, there are blockages concerning maritime transport, insurance and the banking system,” he said.
“The United States and the EU have given promises to lift these,” he said. “I am optimistic.”