Erdogan outlines ‘valued project’ crucial to trade boom in crunch war talks with Zelensky

Expert: Turkey will eventually lift NATO 'blockade'

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The Turkish President spoke to his counterpart in a call on Monday, discussing the notion of securing a safe route out of Ukraine for agricultural projects and goods. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, millions of tonnes of grain have remained blocked in the port city of Odessa as uncertainty over the security of shipping routes remains a concern in the Black Sea.

Following the conversation, the Turkish President’s office released a statement saying: “Erdogan stated he especially valued the project to create a secure sea route for exporting Ukrainian agricultural products.”

The proposal suggested Istanbul, a vital chokepoint between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean become a headquarters for an “observation mechanism” between Moscow, Kyiv and the United Nations.

The Ukrainian President also tweeted following the discussion between the two leaders.

Mr Zelensky wrote: “Continued the dialogue with the President of Turkey.

“The threats to food security created by the aggressor, ways to unlock Ukrainian ports and cooperation in the security sphere were discussed.

“They were unanimous about the need to restore peace.

“We appreciate the assistance by Turkey in this process.”

Follow Defence and Security Correspondent James Lee on Twitter by clicking here @JamesLee_DE

With Turkey being a vital bridge between the two nations, many are hoping the NATO member could act as a broker between Moscow and Kyiv.

At the United States Institute of Peace, two academic researchers, Esra Cuhadar and Juan Diaz-Prinz said: “Turkey is an atypical mediator—but policymakers would do well to note strengths, not widely recognized, that it can bring to this role.

“While analysts have suggested China, Israel, India and others as possible mediators—and while no options should be ignored—Turkey has emerged as the most immediately useful go-between.”

The pair highlight the fact Turkey has built a reputation over the last two decades as a nation capable as acting as a mediator.

Through its role within NATO, Ankara is able to use its position to reassure and convince the West, and most notably the United States over any mediation, whilst at the same time, relying on its closer relationship with Russia on the other side.

Turkey recently snubbed the US and NATO allies when it chose to purchase Russian made S-400 air defence missiles, causing a diplomatic uproar at the time.

The purchase of the highly sophisticated system contributed to the rapport between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mr Erdogan.

Dr Cuhadar and Dr Diaz-Prinz for this reason argue: “The Turkish-Russian successes in practising ‘controlled tension’ are part of the reason that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sought Turkey’s help with Russia even before Moscow’s re-launch of its war in February.”

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Ever since Russia’s first attack on Ukraine in 2014, namely in its seizure of Crimea and its thinly veiled assault in the southern Donbas region, Turkey has played both public and secret roles as a broker.

Since that year, it has been Turkish diplomats who headed the main international diplomatic mission in the conflict, that of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

In this role, two successive Turkish ambassadors led the strenuous daily work of reducing conflicts and facilitating communication between Ukraine’s government and the Russian-backed separatist forces in southernmost Donbas.

Turkish officials also have assisted other exchanges between Russia and Ukraine during the eight long years of the war, keeping that role extremely discreet to avoid having it be seen as competing with the OSCE-backed Minsk peace process.

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In terms of the impact of the most recent talks, such a move could see the millions of tonnes of grain released and shipped to developing countries that rely on wheat for bread, a staple part of their diet.

Rising food prices have also been noticed across developed nations, with bread and cooking oil in particular either shooting up in price, or in some instances, being limited to certain numbers of purchases per customer.

Furthermore, the war has caused huge instability in energy markets.

The European Union last night finally agreed on a compromise to reduce the import of Russian oil to a two-thirds reduction of existing supplies following opposition to a total ban by Russian ally and EU member Hungary.

Follow Defence and Security Correspondent James Lee on Twitter by clicking here @JamesLee_DE

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