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Three takeaways from Erdogan’s phone call with Putin

Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the conflict in Ukraine over a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, according to Türkiye’s Communications Directorate.

This follows a series of diplomatic overtures taken by Türkiye to facilitate negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, with a communicated readiness to mediate between the two rivals. 

Here are the top three points from the call. 

1. Grain could see resumed exports soon

President Putin has indicated that Russia is ready to facilitate resumed, unhindered grain exports from Ukrainian and Russian ports in coordination with Turkey, according to a Kremlin press release summing up the call. 

Nearly 29 per cent of global wheat exports originate from Russia and Ukraine, reaching the world by way of the Bosphorus strait. The two countries also supply approximately 80 per cent of global sunflower oil exports.

President Putin criticized “short-sighted” policies allegedly causing global food shortages, while expressing Russia’s readiness to facilitate global exports of food and fertilizer if sanctions are lifted.

Between dangerous shipping conditions in the Black Sea and sanctions impacting Russian access to shipping vessels, commodities have seen an all-time rally as demand outstrips supply.

The UN describes a growing global food crisis, and has attempted to broker resumed access to Ukrainian agricultural exports to no effect.

While Russia allegedly expects a record summer wheat crop of 87 million tonnes, Ukraine has seen a collapse from potential monthly exports of 6 million tons of wheat, barely and maize to 1.1 million in April.

Without resumed port shipping, Ukrainian grain exports must rely on road, rail and river which does little to bring relief to a growing global food crisis.

2. Border terrorism is a key national security priority

President Erdogan stressed that border regions need to be liberated from terror groups, ahead of a possible Turkish operation into Northern Syria. The president also cited a 2019 plan to create a 30 kilometer safe buffer zone along Türkiye’s southern border that had yet to be realized.

Under the agreement, both parties would coordinate border patrols to ensure a buffer zone free from terror elements.

Türkiye shares borders with Syria and Iraq to the south, and has long contended with the proliferation of terror groups threatening civilian safety, national security and regional stability.

In a soon-to-be expected operation, Türkiye seeks to secure all areas under YPG/PKK control along its borders. The PKK, recognised as a terror group by the US, Türkiye and EU, is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, including women and children.

3. Negotiations must go on

President Erdogan stressed the need for peace as soon as possible, proposing confidence-building measures to work up to it, while emphasizing the conflict’s growing detrimental impact.

To achieve this, President Erdogan shared Turkey’s readiness to host talks in Istanbul with Russia, Ukraine and United Nations representatives, and further participate in an observation mechanism to preserve peace.

Enjoying friendly ties with both Ukraine and Russia, Türkiye’s latest diplomatic efforts offer a possible end to the conflict now entering its fourth month, in line with previous attempts to mediate between the two sides.

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