Russia is now participating in the grain agreement again. Apparently, the mediation efforts of one man again have a large part to play: Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Why is he of all people so successful in dealing with Putin?
The big tremor is over – at least for the time being. After Russia suspended the grain deal with Ukraine on Saturday, the entire deal was on the brink for several days.
Moscow claimed Ukrainian drones attacked the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Ukraine denied that. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba even spoke on Twitter of a “false pretext for blocking the grain corridor”.
In the meantime the situation has calmed down. Russia wants to rejoin the agreement, the Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday. One man played a key role in this change of heart: Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
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The Turkish President has repeatedly intervened in the Ukraine war in recent months, wanting to act as a mediator between the two conflicting parties. The grain deal was also his success.
Erdogan therefore tried to save the agreement. On Monday, not only the Turkish defense minister but also the foreign minister phoned his Russian counterpart. Erdogan himself turned to Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin.
After the conversation with the Russian President, he expressed confidence. A “solution-oriented cooperation” could be set up, according to a statement by the Turkish Ministry of Communications.
For his part, Putin demanded “real guarantees” from Kyiv to “strictly comply with the Istanbul agreements on grain exports”. In particular, the “humanitarian corridor should not be used for military purposes”.
Ukraine has now accepted these demands. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Kyiv has promised not to use the sea corridor for hostilities against Russia.
For Erdogan, the reactivation of the deal is an important achievement. On the one hand, he can use it to consolidate his role as a mediator in the Ukraine war. A task that he “was very happy to take on”, as Alexander Libman explained in an interview with FOCUS online.
On the other hand, Erdogan’s image in his own country benefits from this. According to Libman, acting as a broker not only increases his international influence, it “also supports his popularity in Turkey”.
A new parliament will be elected there next year, and the presidential elections are also coming up. A collapsed grain deal between Russia and Ukraine would have been a major setback for Erdogan. “Especially when you consider that he had set himself an even greater goal: namely to bring Selenskyj and Putin together and ideally stand between them for a photo,” said Turkish Russia expert and government-critical journalist Hakan Aksay of the “Tagesschau”. .
With the grain deal saved for the time being, Erdogan can present himself as a strong man who will transform Turkey into a powerful international player. And underpin its status as a successful mediator.
But there was a lot at stake not only for him, but also for Kremlin boss Putin. With the end of the grain agreement, he might have risked a clinch with Erdogan. There are hardly any western countries left that are friendly towards Russia.
Turkey is the only NATO country not to support the sanctions that the West has imposed on Russia. “Erdogan is almost the only leader that Putin trusts,” says Russia expert Gerhard Mangott in an interview with FOCUS online.
Mangott works as a professor for international relations at the University of Innsbruck. His areas of focus include Russian regime theory and great power relations.
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In addition, both countries maintain close economic relations with each other. “They depend on each other in the energy industry, the construction industry, agriculture and tourism,” says Mangott.
In fact, since the beginning of the Ukraine offensive, Turkey has established itself as a central transit point between Russia and Western countries. The volume of trade between Russia and the state has increased by as much as 198 percent, according to a report by Die Welt.
In addition, Putin wants to use Russian gas to turn Turkey into a transshipment point and an exchange for natural gas. “If Turkey and our potential buyers are interested, we could consider building another gas pipeline and creating a gas hub in Turkey for sale to third countries, mainly in Europe,” Putin offered Erdogan, according to Interfax news agency on.
It’s an idea Erdogan likes – so much so that he has already announced the construction of such a hub. The Mediterranean state and Russia would now make joint preparations.
Libman assumes that Erdogan will continue to present himself as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine in the future. After all, the bond between the presidents seems to be strong. “There were many conflicts in the past between Putin and Erdogan, and in the end both remained open to talks,” he says.
This was evidently also the case with the grain deal that Turkey had helped engineer. Even after the agreement was suspended, the two countries stayed in touch. With a successful exit.
Russia expert Mangott considers Turkey to be one of the few suitable mediators in the Ukraine war. The reason is simple: “Because it has good relations with Russia and Ukraine”.