Ankara played a critical role in a grain deal between Ukraine and Russia and now the Turkish president aims to convince both sides to reach a comprehensive ceasefire.
Türkiye is emerging as a key mediator between Russia and Ukraine, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan heads to Lviv on Thursday in a fresh diplomatic push to ease tensions, which have contributed to global grain shortage and inflation.
The Turkish leadership helped broker a crucial deal between the two warring neighbours on the issue of millions of tons grains stuck at the ports in Ukraine. Ankara has constantly urged both sides to reach a comprehensive ceasefire.
Erdogan will hold a critical meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Lviv, as he aims to broaden Türkiye’s mediating efforts to end the bloody conflict.
On top of the agenda would be efforts to broaden the scope of a grain deal, which Türkiye brokered. Istanbul-based Joint Coordination Center, which includes Turkish, Ukrainian, Russian and UN officials, monitors the process of grain export from Black Sea ports.
“This visit may be aimed at developing and expanding on this diplomatic success,” says Gregory Simons, an associate professor at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Uppsala University, referring to the grain deal, which paved the way for both Ukrainian and Russian farm output to be shipped from Black Sea ports.
Simons believes Erdogan’s Ukraine visit aims to build up on the grain deal, using the momentum to persuade Kiev to negotiate a truce with Moscow. “I think that it stands to further cement Türkiye as an honest broker, as an intermediary,” Simons tells TRT World.
Turkish shuttle diplomacy
On August 5, Erdogan met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, a Black Sea port in Russia where they discussed Ukraine and Syrian conflicts. Türkiye, a NATO ally, is in a rare position to talk to both Russians and Ukrainians thanks to Erdogan’s shuttle diplomacy.
“Türkiye has emerged as a major swing player in the protracted war,” wrote Eugene Chausovsky, a senior analyst at the Newlines Institute, who previously served as senior Eurasia analyst at the geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor, pointing out that Ankara’s “multifaceted connectivity strategy” has brought up “meaningful results” like the grain deal.
“Erdogan's visit comes at an opportune moment as Türkiye emerges as a diplomatic winner from the current Ukraine crisis. Erdogan has deftly used his Russian leverage borne out of Syrian, Libyan and the Azerbaijan-Armenian wars to deliver a much needed relief to Ukraine,” says Kamal Alam, a military analyst and a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
“Erdogan will look to use this trip to further his European credentials at a time the West needs Türkiye more than ever,” Alam tells TRT World, adding that Ukraine, which signed a military agreement with Ankara, will also be happy to “champion” Ankara's causes across Europe.
Other analysts also believe that Türkiye’s approach on the Ukraine conflict makes much more sense than the general Western approach. Ankara’s “proactive approach” offers “important lessons for the West on how to most-effectively deal with Russia”, wrote Chausovsky.
While Türkiye has strong ties with Russia, it has also maintained its trade and military relations with Kiev, backing the country’s territorial integrity and opposing the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, says Alam.
Through Turkish shuttle diplomacy, Ankara has worked hard with both sides to sort out their differences.
In recent days, some attacks against Russian forces across Crimea have escalated tensions. In just one attack last week, seven Russian jets were destroyed in a Crimean airbase, a loss Moscow has never suffered since WWII. Ukraine does not have missiles or the capability to attack at such a range to hit Crimea, puzzling analysts.
"The situation in Ukraine shows that the US is trying to prolong this conflict. And they act in exactly the same way, fuelling the potential for conflict in Asia, Africa and Latin America," Putin said on Tuesday, accusing Washington for recently escalating tensions with Kiev and other political problems like the Taiwan conflict.
Washington’s arming of Ukraine and harsh Western sanctions on Russia can prolong the conflict, analysts say.
While Türkiye is playing its part in trying to negotiate some sort of an agreement between Ukraine and Russia, the US also has to pitch in efforts, says Simons.