Türkiye will send grain and other relevant products to African countries in need if Russian exports are allowed through the Black Sea, the Turkish president said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters on the plane after his three-day Balkan tour, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin’s view, saying the Ukrainian grain is exported to wealthy countries, not to those in need.
Türkiye, the UN, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul on July 22 to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, which were paused after the Russia-Ukraine war began in February. A joint coordination center with officials from the three countries and the UN was set up in Istanbul to oversee the shipments.
Although not officially part of the deal, it was negotiated that once Russia allows the movement of ships through Ukrainian ports, sanctions on Russian exports will be lifted.
- Assisting poor countries through grain corridor
Erdogan said he expects to have a “broad and in-depth” meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the annual leaders’ summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand on Sept. 15-16.
“In this meeting, we will mainly discuss the grain corridor matter. To be honest, I find Putin’s remarks of ‘grain going to the rich countries, not the poor’ as correct. This shouldn’t be the case,” he said.
The “actual” aim should have been helping poor countries via the grain corridor but “that doesn’t appear to be the case at the moment,” the Turkish president added.
“In Samarkand, Türkiye will ask Putin “to send Russian products on ships passing through the corridor. We will especially ask him to start this,” Erdogan said.
Putin claimed earlier Wednesday that “almost all” of the grain being exported from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports “is sent not to the developing poorest countries, but to the EU countries.”
“Under the UN World Food Program, which implies assistance to countries in need, only two ships were loaded, I emphasize, only two out of 87, and 60,000 tons of food were exported on them of the 2 million tons, this is only 3% that is sent to developing countries,” Putin said.
Since the first vessel sailed under the deal on Aug. 1, at least 100 ships have carried over 2.5 million tons of agricultural products from Ukraine.
- Europe’s energy crisis
Erdogan also said he had discussed natural gas prices with Putin and said he aims to secure a positive outcome for the well-being of the Turkish public.
On Europe’s energy crisis, Erdogan said the Russian president has not made “an arbitrary” decision on gas exports to Europe.
He said countries like Germany have begun to use its Ruhr basin, an important thermal power plant.
“Europe is not as comfortable and peaceful as one might think. It is going somewhere very different… Thankfully, we do not have such a problem for now. Russia does not impose any sanctions on us,” he said.
This winter will not be easy for Europe, Erdogan said.
In response to a question on his recent remarks “we may come suddenly one night” on Greece, Erdogan said: “I think the message I want to convey was very clear. The latest attitude of Greece towards Türkiye is inexplicable.”
Emphasizing that Greece continues to militarize “the islands right under our noses despite agreements on the non-military status agreements,” Erdogan said he will also discuss the matter with US President Joe Biden during his visit to New York for the UN General Assembly meeting on Sept. 21-23.
Türkiye, a NATO member for over 70 years, has complained of repeated provocative actions and rhetoric by Greece in the region in recent months, saying such moves frustrate its good faith efforts for peace.
Tensions between the two neighboring countries rose after Greece lodged a complaint with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to delete a tweet by the NATO Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) to mark Türkiye’s 100th Victory Day, which commemorates the resounding defeat of occupying Greek armies at the hands of Turks in the 1922 Battle of Dumlupinar.
LANDCOM on Tuesday tweeted a post to mark the 100th Victory Day. However, it tweeted a new post on Thursday congratulating Ankara, saying: “We are thankful to have Türkiye as our host nation.”
Türkiye criticized NATO for deleting the tweet, calling it “unacceptable,” and saying that the alliance “has greatly discredited its corporate identity and prestige” by deleting the tweet upon a “baseless request” by Greece.