In Sochi, Putin and Erdogan strengthen their economic and energy cooperation

It is in the summer residence of the Russian Head of State, on the shores of the Black Sea, that the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his counterpart Vladimir Putin spoke face to face for nearly four hours, Friday, August 5. “Today, of course, the eyes of the whole world are on Sochi”rejoiced the Turkish leader, haloed by his status as an essential mediator between Moscow and kyiv.

From the start of the talks, the head of the Kremlin thanked his host for having negotiated and implemented the grain agreement, overseen from Istanbul by officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations. “Thanks to your direct participation and the mediation of the UN Secretariat, the problem related to Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea ports has been resolved. Deliveries have already started and I wanted to thank you for that”Mr. Putin said.

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On the same day, three ships carrying thousands of tons of corn were able to leave Ukrainian ports. A first ship was released on Monday 1er August, from the Ukrainian port of Odessa, located 800 kilometers west of Sochi. The cereal agreement is advantageous for Russia, which will be able to export its cereals and fertilizers, despite Western financial sanctions, slightly relaxed thanks to the good offices of Ankara. In the joint statement released after the talks, the two leaders stressed “the need for full realization of the comprehensive agreement reached in Istanbul, including the unimpeded export of Russian grain and fertilizers”.

The discussions were held under the seal of confidentiality. There was no press conference after the meeting and Mr. Erdogan, who came as a neighbor for the afternoon, quickly left Russia once it was over.

In addition to cereal exports and the situation in northern Syria, where the Turkish army is preparing a new incursion against the Syrian Kurds allied with the West, it was above all a question of energy. Vladimir Putin insisted on the role played by Ankara in bringing Russian gas to European homes through the TurkStream gas pipeline, which crosses the Black Sea. “European consumers should be grateful to Turkey for this uninterrupted flow of natural gas”he pointed out.

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Dependent on Russia for its consumption of gas and oil, Turkey, currently faced with galloping inflation (80% on average annually, according to official figures), hopes to be able to maintain affordable prices for the energy it consumes. In one year, the price of a liter of gasoline at the pump has increased by 300%, causing a wave of discontent among the population. Trying to limit soaring energy prices is a priority for President Erdogan, whose popularity is running out of steam less than a year from the presidential and legislative elections, scheduled for June 2023.

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