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Turkiye President: No obstacle stands in way of Istanbul grain deal extension

October 21, 2022 at 2:13 pm

Turkish President and leader of the Justice and Development (AK) Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during his party’s group meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) in Ankara, Turkiye on October 19, 2022. [Raşit Aydoğan – Anadolu Agency]

There is no obstacle preventing the extension of a landmark grain export deal, signed four months ago amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, so Russian grain and fertiliser can be shipped to world markets as well, Turkiye’s President has said, Anadolu News Agency reports.

“There is no obstacle to extending the shipping agreement. I saw this again in my phone call with (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy last night, and in my meeting with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. But, in the meantime, if there is any blockage, there is no obstacle for us to overcome,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Thursday, while returning from a trip to Azerbaijan.

Turkiye, the UN, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul on July 22 to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, which paused after the start of the Russia-Ukraine war in February.

The parties are currently negotiating a possible extension and expansion beyond its 19 November deadline, to include Russian grain and fertiliser exports.

Erdogan said that, under the deal, more than 8 million tons of Ukrainian grain had been supplied to world markets aboard 363 ships as of Thursday, adding that 62 per cent of Ukrainian shipments had gone to Europe, 19.5 per cent to Asia, 13 per cent to Africa, and 5.3 per cent to Middle Eastern countries.

Turkiye has been in close contact with both Russia and Ukraine since the beginning of the war. Erdogan has repeatedly stressed his wish to bring Putin and Zelenskyy together at the negotiating table in Turkiye to end it.

“We are not hopeless. It is our hope that we will continue on the road for peace by bringing the two leaders together,” he added.

Lachin airport to be opened in 2023

Erdogan and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, on Thursday jointly inaugurated the Zangilan International Airport, Azerbaijan’s second airport in territories reclaimed from Armenia during the 2020 Karabakh War.

“Re-establishing the region’s connection with the world and strengthening the transportation lines are strategic moves. Hopefully, we will crown these breakthroughs by opening Lachin Airport next year,” Erdogan said.

The President said that, during his talks with Aliyev, they also discussed peace and stability in the Caucasus region.

“Determining the borders, opening the connection road between Nakhchivan (autonomous region) and the western regions of Azerbaijan and signing a peace agreement will be important steps for the region’s normalisation,” he added.

Erdogan also said there was no doubt that progress in talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia would boost the normalisation process between Ankara and Yerevan, as well.

Earlier this month, Erdogan, Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, had a brief conversation ahead of the European Political Community summit in the Czech capital, Prague.

Following the meeting, Erdogan said Ankara wanted to improve ties between the three countries and resolve outstanding issues.

‘Ankara has alternative plans if US refuses F-16 deal’

Amid ongoing negotiations with Washington for the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkiye, Erdogan said talks continue as planned.

On recent remarks by US Senator, Bob Menendez vowing to block any F-16 deal until the Turkish President “halts his campaign of aggression against the region,” Erdogan said: “The statements of senators like Menendez are their own personal opinions, their personal claims. It doesn’t reflect an institutional situation in any way.

“In addition, their relations with Greece are also the subject of a separate study. Why are they so biased about this?” he added.

Erdogan said NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, had stressed that the sale would be important for the alliance as well, adding that Turkiye was closely monitoring the issue.

“The opposition of Menendez alone does not prevent this,” he underlined.

Erdogan also reiterated that the US sale was not the sole possibility for Turkiye, adding that Ankara had alternative plans if Washington refuses the deal.

“Just like with the S400s, we are also negotiating with alternatives outside the US, when necessary,” he said.

Last week, in a development welcomed by Ankara, two amendments putting conditions on potential F-16 sales to Turkiye were reportedly removed from the Senate version of the relevant Bill.

The conditions included requiring the US President to take steps to ensure the warplanes “are not used by Turkey for repeated unauthorised territorial over-flights of Greece.”

Read: Istanbul deal for Ukraine grain shipments stabilise global food prices, US says