Turkey says can re-export Black Sea grains to countries in need

Turkey could re-export grain products like wheat, oat and barley from the Black Sea to countries in need after talks with Russia and Ukraine, the country’s president said Friday.

Speaking after Friday prayers in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he would discuss the matter with both Russia and Ukraine in the coming days.

Ukraine is one of the top global wheat suppliers, but shipments have been halted by Russia’s invasion, causing global food shortages. The United Nations has appealed to both sides, as well as maritime neighbor Turkey, to agree to a corridor.

Erdoğan said his office was working with Kyiv and Moscow to set up calls with his counterparts and that 20 Turkish vessels were ready to take part in the potential shipments.

After talks with the leaders of Ukraine and Russia, “we can send wheat, barley, oat, sunflower oil and all to countries in need by carrying out a re-export through us,” he said.

Turkey has played a central role in negotiations with Russia and Ukraine to try to reach an agreement that would allow for an increase in the amount of grain that can get out of Ukraine amid the conflict.

Some grain was transported west by rail out of Ukraine, but experts say restoring Ukraine’s ability to export grain through the Black Sea is necessary to have a significant effect on easing global food shortages.

Turkey has held direct talks with Moscow and the United Nations on the plan and Erdoğan said from Madrid on Wednesday that he hoped diplomacy would help solve the issues around Ukraine's grain exports.

“We are trying to solve the process with a balancing policy. Our hope is that this balance policy will lead to results and allow us the possibility to get grain to countries that are facing shortages right now through a corridor as soon as possible,” he said during a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on the margins of a NATO summit.

Tens of millions of people across the world are at risk of hunger as the four-month war has disrupted shipments of grain from Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference at the conclusion of the summit on Thursday, Erdoğan said he would try to continue phone diplomacy with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin this weekend or early next week on the grain corridor.

He also added Turkey’s stocks were “in good shape” for now./agencies