Putin and Erdogan Meeting: What to Expect From Russia-Turkiye Summit?

04.09.2023 09:06

Putin and Erdogan Meeting: What to Expect From Russia-Turkiye Summit?

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are set to hold negotiations in Russia’s Black Sea resort city of Sochi on September 4, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday. This will be the first meeting between the two leaders in person since October 13 last year in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Bilateral relations, the Ukraine crisis and NATO’s ongoing proxy war against Moscow, as well as the expired Black Sea Grain Deal, are just some of the issues that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be focusing on during their meeting on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier told journalists. There had been talk about a planned meeting since the spring of 2023. On August 2, the two leaders had a telephone conversation, during which they agreed to lay the groundwork for a face-to-face encounter.

Sputnik takes a closer look at what to expect from the upcoming talks between the Russian president and his Turkish counterpart, who have invariably managed to find common ground and devise mutually acceptable solutions for various crises during previous meetings.

Black Sea Grain Deal

Upcoming talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan will largely determine the future of the collapsed grain deal, and the process will be monitored by the United Nations, a source involved in the negotiation process on the grain deal told Sputnik in late August.

"There are very high hopes for these negotiations, in many ways they will show clarity on the future [of the grain deal], all relevant departments [of Turkiye] are working in this direction. The process is coordinated with the UN, they will also follow these negotiations. We very much hope that they will be held constructively and opportunities will be opened for the resumption of the work of our initiative," a diplomatic source in Ankara stated.

Russia, Turkiye, Ukraine, and the UN signed a deal in Istanbul on July 22, 2022 to resume grain exports through Ukrainian ports and clear the way for Russian food and fertilizers to access global markets in a bid to stabilize skyrocketing food prices amid continued sanctions against Russia. Although the agreement had previously been extended several times, it was allowed to expire in mid-July after clauses outlined under the package were not implemented.

Moscow had repeatedly emphasized that the Turkiye- and UN-mediated Black Sea Grain Initiative's component on facilitating Russian grain and fertilizer exports was not fulfilled, specifically with regard to reconnecting Russian banks to SWIFT and unblocking the Tolyatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline.

More recently, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan revealed after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Ankara, in cooperation with the UN, had prepared new proposals regarding the Black Sea Grain Initiative for its resumption. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on August 31 that he had sent concrete solutions to Lavrov about more effective access of Russian products to global markets as part of his efforts to renew the grain deal. However, the proposals lack guarantees when it comes to Russia’s concerns, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. Lavrov added that he spoke to Guterres on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg.

"He told me about his new initiatives. He sent me a message on that. We explained honestly both to the [UN] secretary-general and to our Turkish friends that, still, in this message there is not a single guarantee [for Russia]. There are only promises to try faster, to try harder,” Lavrov told journalists.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been proud of his role as a broker in the grain initiative, and Ankara coveted the status of a principal grain hub along the route in question, experts told Sputnik earlier. Furthermore, Turkiye had a vested interest in providing for the country’s huge flour milling industry, and maintaining its role as a top flour exporter.

However, Washington and its allies spearheaded an effort aimed at suffocating Russian exports, including grain and fertilizers, which was one of the reasons Russia was prompted to suspend its participation in the Black Sea Grain Deal. Moscow also underscored that for all the loud talk about helping countries in need and avoiding the risk of hunger, the vast majority of Ukrainian grain sold through the deal was going to wealthy Western nations, instead of vulnerable ones in the Global South.

When Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Moscow on August 31, they touched upon the parameters of implementing an initiative proposed by Vladimir Putin to organize supplies of one million tons of discounted Russian grain to Turkiye, with Qatar’s financial support, for processing and subsequent delivery to the neediest countries. Russia underscored that it viewed this as the best “working alternative” to the Black Sea deal.

Ukraine Conflagration

Reports surfaced in August 2023 that Erdogan also planned to discuss with Vladimir Putin the possible mediation of Turkiye in brokering a settlement of the Ukraine crisis. It was reported that the Turkish president would offer his Russian counterpart the resumption of peace talks with the Ukrainian side.

During the recent meeting between Sergey Lavrov and Hakan Fidan, Russia clarified the unacceptability of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's peace plan to Moscow.

"We talked about the situation in and around Ukraine, including the initiatives that are designed to promote the unacceptable, ultimatum-driven and deliberately failed 'Zelensky's Peace Formula.' We explained why it is impossible to rely on the efforts that are being made in this direction, which are trying to replace any serious conversation about how to ensure equal, indivisible security that will prevent conflicts on the territory of Europe," Lavrov stressed.

Bilateral Ties

Sweeping mutually beneficial bilateral ties may come up for discussion by the two sides during the meeting. Russia has been consistently building up economic cooperation with Turkiye, with trade turnover reaching a record $62.4 billion in 2022, which is an almost 86 percent increase over the previous year. The two countries are involved in a spate of strategic projects, such as construction of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, built by Russia's Rosatom Corporation, the first energy unit of which is in a high state of readiness. Operation of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and the construction of a gas hub on Turkish territory are also vital infrastructure projects.

In early August, reports suggested that Putin and Erdogan might discuss turning Turkiye into a gas hub, as well as other energy projects. In early April, then-Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said Ankara had initiated the process of introducing legislative amendments for the gas hub project, adding that the changes were expected to be approved by Erdogan. He then said that a number of European countries, including Hungary and Serbia, were interested in buying gas through the hub, which could start operating in 2024.

Furthermore, Turkiye has a very large balance of payments deficit, and Russia provides Turkey with foreign exchange earnings that come from tourism and investments, experts told Sputnik, with the cash influx helping to stabilize Turkey’s volatile lira.

Back in August 2022, the Russian and Turkish presidents agreed at their in Sochi meeting to start using the ruble in bilateral trade, eying a gradual transition to paying in national currencies and stepping away from use of the US dollar. In early 2023, Turkiye’s Central Bank announced moves to boost de-dollarization and keep down Turkish lira government bond yields.

This comes as the US’ weaponization of its currency has prompted increasingly more countries to embrace the trend towards ditching the dollar. Both the July summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which Turkiye is a dialogue partner, and the recent BRICS summit in Johannesburg have shown that viable alternatives can be created to the dollar, which Washington has wielded to wage aggressive sanctions campaigns. BRICS will hasten the transition to a multi-currency system, and the US dollar will still have a role, but a much smaller one among many currencies, experts told Sputnik. Furthermore, the announced expansion of the bloc gives BRICS nations more leverage in negotiations on the global stage, economists predict. The latter sentiments were echoed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who predicted, ahead of the next G20 summit on September 9-10 in New Delhi, India that the BRICS club of emerging economies will have a greater sway in the Group of Twenty forum after adding new members - Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.