EXCLUSIVE - UK pins hopes on Türkiye to bring Russia back to grain deal

EXCLUSIVE - UK pins hopes on Türkiye to bring Russia back to grain deal

‘Really hope’ President Erdogan is able to impress upon Russia the importance of the grain initiative, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tells Anadolu

By Betul Yuruk

NEW YORK (AA) – The UK is hopeful that Türkiye will be able to bring Russia back to the table to resume the Black Sea grain deal, according to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, echoing global concerns after Moscow pulled out of an agreement that gave the world access to critical supplies of Ukrainian grain.

“I really hope that the (Turkish) President (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) is able to impress upon the importance of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, helping lift people out of hunger, helping reduce international grain prices,” Cleverly told Anadolu in an exclusive interview.

“President Erdogan has done an incredibly important job on behalf of many people around the world, playing a part with the United Nations in securing the grain initiative.”

The accord was signed in Istanbul in July last year by Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and the UN, creating a safe corridor through the Black Sea for exports from three Ukrainian ports halted since the war began in February 2022.

It helped rein in spiraling prices and ease a global food crisis by restoring the flow of wheat, sunflower oil, fertilizer and other products from Ukraine, one of the largest grain exporters in the world.

Moscow this week refused to extend the agreement beyond July 17, saying parts related to its demands have “not been implemented so far,” referring to the removal of obstacles to its own fertilizer exports, including the inclusion of the state-owned Russian Agricultural Bank in the SWIFT international payment system.

Cleverly, however, accused Russia of using hunger around the world for political leverage.

“The ball is very much in Russia’s court, and we call upon them to engage with this initiative,” he said.

On the UK’s support to Ukraine, he said the government will keep backing Kyiv until the withdrawal of the last Russian troops.

- Migration deal with Türkiye

While British media reports suggest the UK is seeking a special agreement with Türkiye on managing the flow of migrants and asylum seekers, Cleverly did not confirm whether any such deal is on the cards.

“I have had this conversation with the Turkish foreign minister and the prime minister had a conversation with President Erdogan. We will continue to have conversations to deal with what is basically a shared challenge,” he said.

“We recognize that Türkiye has a huge number of migrants and it has been very generous in hosting refugees, international migrants. So, this is a shared issue many countries face and because of the international nature of this issue, no one country alone is going to be able to solve that.”

- New free trade deal with Türkiye

Regarding talks on a new free trade deal between the UK and Türkiye, Cleverly said the British government “would like to get these agreements as soon as we can.”

Following phone calls between the UK’s Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch and Turkish Trade Minister Omer Bolat last week, the British government confirmed Tuesday that the two sides will hold talks on a new and modernized free trade agreement (FTA).

It said the existing FTA, signed after the UK left the EU, does not cover key areas such as services, digital and data, adding that a new deal will boost bilateral trade and help British firms maximize opportunities.
The Turkish Trade Ministry said efforts to this end “began last year, with both partners concluding that there would be value in broadening and deepening the trade relationship.”

A ministry statement said an open trading environment based on global trading rules that “underpin mutual growth and prosperity” is now “more important than ever.”

Cleverly underlined that the UK views Türkiye as “a strong and important friend.”

“It is an important economy and, of course, we would like to do more trade with our friends,” he said.

- ‘UK will judge Syria’s Assad on his actions’

Regarding an ongoing push by Arab nations to normalize relations with Syria, Cleverly said the UK has its own position “but respects the decision of Arab countries.”

“If (Bashar) al-Assad is serious, then he should demonstrate that through an action. He should create safety in Syria so that those Syrian refugees can return home. He should guarantee their safety,” said the British foreign secretary.

“He should work with the international community to facilitate cross-border aid shipments. So, we will judge him on his actions.”

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