Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed confidence Friday on the prospects of an extension to the deal that allows Ukraine to export its grain and ease a global food crisis.
“We are preparing to welcome Putin in August and we agree on the extension of the Black Sea grain corridor,” Erdogan told reporters.
Erdogan said he had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the crucial deal, set to expire on Monday, though he did not say when the conversation had taken place.
Questioned by Russian press agencies Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov neither confirmed nor denied Erdogan’s statement. “There is no statement about this from the Russian side,” he said.
The Black Sea grain deal was first signed in July 2022, five months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and has already been renewed two times. This time however, Putin has repeatedly threatened not to renew it because of obstacles to Russia’s own exports.
Earlier Friday, speaking in Jakarta, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Russia to extend the deal, warning that the most vulnerable countries would suffer without it.
“Developing countries including in the region will pay the price including quite literally with higher food prices, as well as greater food scarcity,” Blinken told reporters after Southeast Asian talks.
– UN letter to Putin –
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres this week sent Putin a letter about the extension of the deal. He supports removing hurdles to Russia exporting its fertilisers — another element Moscow has complained is not being respected.
Erdogan said he hoped “that with this letter we will ensure the extension of the grain corridor with our joint efforts and those of Russia”.
“Discussions are being had,” said Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for Guterres. “WhatsApp messages are being sent, Signal messages are being sent and exchanged.”
They were still waiting for a reply to Guterres’s letter, he added.
On Thursday, Putin had argued that none of Moscow’s conditions for the deal to function had been met.
“I want to emphasise that nothing was done, nothing at all. It’s all one-sided,” Putin said in a televised interview.
“We will think about what to do, we have a few more days,” he added.
The deal, which Erdogan helped broker, has allowed Ukraine to ship more than 32 million tonnes of grain past Russian warships in the Black Sea.
Much of the grain has gone to feed people in developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. If the exports were again blocked, food prices could spiral even higher than they are now.