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Turkey's Erdogan plans to visit Russia in September, sources say

The Turkish president aims to revive the Black Sea grain deal, while natural gas discounts and other issues are on the agenda 
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrive to hold a joint press conference at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on 3 April 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a press conference at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on 3 April 2018 (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on 4 September in the Russian city of Sochi, three sources familiar with the visit told Middle East Eye on Monday.

Earlier this month, Erdogan told journalists that he expects to host Putin in Turkey. Instead, the Turkish president will visit Russia to discuss the Black Sea grain deal, which Moscow withdrew from in July citing unmet written pledges by the UN and western powers.

Putin’s foreign trips had been restricted to former Soviet Union republics since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February last year, with the only exception being Iran, where the Russian army gets its supplies of kamikaze drones and other hardware.

Putin’s security concerns during a visit to a Nato ally might have played a role in avoiding Turkey.

The main item on Erdogan's agenda during his trip to the Black Sea city of Sochi is expected to be the Black Sea grain deal, since Ankara is keen to facilitate Moscow’s return to the agreement.

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Turkey would like to host another set of meetings in Istanbul soon to broker a new deal between Ukraine, the UN, and Russia to resolve the stalemate. 

Russia has several demands to revive the deal, such as the Russian Agricultural Bank’s inclusion in the Swift global payment system and the repair of the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline to export Russian fertiliser.

Among Moscow's demands are also the solution to the Russian ship insurance problem, where ship insurers said last year they would be cancelling war risk coverage across Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well as the unfreezing of assets of Russian companies operating in the food sector by western allies.

Omer Celik, spokesperson for the ruling AK Party, said during a press conference following a meeting chaired by Erdogan that Ankara is working to avert a global food crisis.

President Erdogan “will soon pay a visit to Sochi”, Celik said on Monday.

“We evaluate that there will be new developments on this issue and a new phase can be reached.”

However, Erdogan has bilateral issues to care about as well, such as Turkey’s natural gas imports from Russia.

Ankara last year succeeded in receiving a 25 percent discount on gas from Moscow, and Russia also postponed some of Turkey's gas payments to 2024. Erdogan is likely to seek to maintain the gas discount and look for further postponements as Turkey’s international reserves are low. 

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