UPDATE - Türkiye hopes Black Sea grain deal will continue: National Defense Ministry

UPDATE - Türkiye hopes Black Sea grain deal will continue: National Defense Ministry

Talks between Türkiye, UN, Russia, and Ukraine continue although deal expired on July 17, says Turkish National Defense Ministry official

ADDS MORE INFO ON FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM, ILLEGAL BORDER CROSSINGS

By Diyar Guldogan

ANKARA (AA) – Thought it expired on Monday, Türkiye is still working hard to ensure the continuation of last year’s landmark Black Sea grain deal, the country’s National Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

"The whole world attaches great importance to maintenance of the grain deal. It is clear that the agreement, which was established through joint efforts, plays a vital role in tackling the global food crisis," a National Defense Ministry official told reporters at a background briefing in the capital Ankara.

Russia on Monday suspended its participation in the deal, which it signed last July along with Türkiye, the UN, and Ukraine to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports paused after the Russia-Ukraine war began in February. Even when renewing the deal in previous months, Moscow has complained that the Russian part of the agreement was not bring implemented.

"We hope that this initiative will continue, as it contributes greatly to the stabilization of global food prices and proves that all crises can be resolved with goodwill and dialogue," the Turkish official said.

Stating that the deal was extended three times already – on Nov. 19, March 18 and May 18 – the official said that more than 33 million tons of grain had been shipped from Ukrainian ports to 45 countries on three continents.

"Our contacts with officials from the UN, Russia, and Ukraine regarding extension of the grain initiative, which expired on July 17 and was stopped by Russia, continue in coordination with the Turkish Foreign Ministry," he added.

Türkiye is ready to assume an "active and facilitating" role for a cease-fire and lasting peace, and to provide all kinds of support to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, he said.

Asked about Russian personnel at the Istanbul Joint Coordination Center, which has been implementing the deal, a National Defense Ministry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, "Russian personnel left the center," adding that Türkiye favors continuation of the deal with its current status.

A Joint Coordination Center was set up in Istanbul with officials from the three countries and the UN to oversee the shipments.

Türkiye, internationally praised for its unique mediator role between Ukraine and Russia, has repeatedly called on Kyiv and Moscow to end the war through negotiations.


- Fight against terrorism

Turning to the nation’s counter-terrorism efforts, the official also said Türkiye "neutralized" a total of 35 terrorists in the last week, including ones hiding out in Iraq and northern Syria, across the border, planning more terror attacks.

"The total number of terrorists neutralized during the year has now reached 848," he added.

Turkish authorities use the term “neutralize” to imply that the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured.

"As a result of this successful struggle carried out by the Turkish soldiers with great self-sacrifice and extraordinary effort, a heavy blow was dealt to the terrorist organization (PKK), including neutralizing its so-called ringleaders, putting an end to the group’s mobility, and reaching an important stage in warding off the terror scourge that has plagued our nation for years," he added.

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is its Syrian offshoot.

Terrorist groups continue to attack civilians and military units from other regions, especially in northern Syria, areas not under Damascus’ control where Türkiye has operations to keep the region and its civilians safe from a terrorist threat, the official said.

Since this January, 79 harassment incidents and attacks have been carried out by the PKK/YPG terrorist group in Türkiye's operation areas, and 631 terrorists were neutralized with the immediate intervention of Turkish soldiers, he added.

Türkiye has long complained of the U.S. working with the PKK/YPG on the pretext of fighting Daesh/ISIS. Turkish officials say using one terrorist group to fight another makes no sense.

On the claim that the US has reinforced its troops in Syria and sent new military shipments, a National Defense Ministry source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the matter is being followed closely but there are no such indications so far.

On illegal crossings into Türkiye, he said thanks to additional and effective measures, since Jan. 1 a total of 4,065 people who tried to cross Türkiye's borders illegally were caught, including 306 terrorists. A total of 125,822 people were blocked before they crossed the border.

Türkiye already hosts 4 million refugees, more than any other country in the world, and is taking new measures at its borders to prevent a fresh influx of migrants.

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