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Turkey engages with Russia and Ukraine to end global food crisis

Russian President Vladimir Putin with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and leaders of Bulgaria and Serbia during the launch ceremony of TurkStream gas pipeline in January 2020 (Image courtesy: Kremlin.ru)

Turkey's ultra-ambitious President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is thinking big – of turning Ankara into a key player to end the global food crisis by engaging with both Russia and Ukraine.  

Turkey, which has for the past few months trumpeted of being "the only country that maintains close relations with both of the warring parties" north of Black Sea, is now looking at playing host to a United Nations "Control Centre" in Istanbul which could play an important role in defusing the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

In back-to-back calls to his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday, Erdogan insisted that Ankara has thus far made every effort for the continuation of the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.

He told Zelenskyy that Turkey attaches special importance to the project of establishing a safe corridor for the exportation of Ukrainian agricultural products by sea and stands ready "from now on to provide any needed help", including mediation. 


President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan in this October 2020 photograph (Image courtesy: President.gov.ua)

"President Erdogan further noted that Turkey looked with favour in principal on joining the Control Center to be formed with the participation of the United Nations as well as the parties, and hosting the center in Istanbul," Erdogan's office said in a statement after the phone call.

On the other hand, Putin, while discussing the situation in Ukraine with Erdogan, put emphasis on the issues of ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov Seas and eliminating the mine threat in their waters to unchoke trade from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

"Vladimir Putin noted the readiness of the Russian side to facilitate the unhindered maritime transit of goods in coordination with Turkish partners. This also applies to the export of grain from Ukrainian ports," a statement from the Kremlin detailed after the phone conversation between the two leaders.

By playing a significant role in opening channels of production and supply which are faced with new threats, Turkey is moving full steam ahead with Erdogan's plan of turning the Russia-Ukraine conflict into a big opportunity for the country that bridges the continents of Europe and Asia.

Turkey hosts the strait of Bosporus which divides Asia from Europe. The Bosporus connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, and, then through the Dardanelles reaches out to the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, and through the Kerch Strait, the Sea of Azov.

Addressing the local media after a Presidential Cabinet Meeting last month, Erdogan had said that Turkey is advancing on the path to becoming "the logistics superpower of a vast geography stretching from London to Beijing, from Siberia to the South Africa".

Banking on his 2053 transportation and logistics master plan, the Turkish President dreams of seeing his country as one of the world's top 10 economies someday. 

And even as it readies itself "to assume a role in a possible observation mechanism" by arranging a meeting between Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations in Istanbul in the coming weeks, Turkey continues to accelerate its investments to get what Erdogan describes as "the biggest possible share of the potential that will emerge in other countries".

In doing so, he has already highlighted that the US is planning 2 trillion dollars' worth of infrastructure investment whereas China is ready with a 559 billion dollars' worth of infrastructure investment. Turkey, believes Erdogan, has already made "great progress" in this area by making 172 billion dollars' worth of investment in five main sectors between 2003 and the end of 2021.

"We are taking the steps that would turn the global crisis, which has been continuing by gaining new dimensions with the Russia-Ukraine war, into an opportunity," Erdogan had stated while endeavouring to mobilize country's "full strength, means and potential" in order to Turkey achieve its goals as soon as possible.

A shrewd politician, Erdogan has already put brakes on NATO's Nordic expansion by not letting Finland and Sweden join the transatlantic military alliance.

With Turkey revealing on Tuesday that the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be visiting Ankara next week along with a military delegation for talks on unblocking export of grain stuck at the Ukrainian ports, the Turkish President certainly seems to have more cards up his sleeve.

Also Read: Anxious Erdogan puts brakes on NATO expansion, all eyes on Madrid Summit now