President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday discussed the establishment of a coordination center in Turkey for grain exports via the Black Sea with French President Emmanuel Macron, along with bilateral relations and regional issues.
In a phone call with his French counterpart, Erdoğan told Macron that it was decided to manage the export process of Ukrainian grain from a coordination center that will be established in Turkey's largest city Istanbul and will consist of Turkish, Russian, Ukrainian and United Nations officials, the Presidency's Directorate of Communications said.
The Turkish president said that the early implementation of the plan will provide great relief in the context of global food security, the statement added.
Last Wednesday, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced shortly after Turkey hosted a four-way meeting that the coordination center for exporting Ukrainian grain is expected to be set up in Istanbul.
Ukrainian and Russian officials will gather again in Turkey next week to review details and sign documents to formalize the deal, Akar said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also confirmed that there was progress on the matter, thanking the U.N. and Turkey for their efforts.
The high-stakes meeting involving U.N., Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish officials in Istanbul broke up after slightly more than three hours without the participants speaking to the press. The summit in Istanbul, which started at around 4 p.m. local time, marks the Russian and Ukrainian governments’ first face-to-face talks since another meeting in the Turkish metropolis in late March.
Ukraine is a vital exporter of wheat and grains such as barley and maize. It has also supplied nearly half of all the sunflower oil traded on global markets.
But shipments across the Black Sea have been blocked by Russian warships and mines Kyiv has laid to avert a feared amphibious assault.
Turkey has been working with the United Nations to broker a deal after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine fueled prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer.
Erdoğan also said Turkey's expectations regarding the SAMP-T long-range air defense system were to "ensure the launch of the supply project and develop a joint system that included maximum cooperation within the framework of the principle of 'full transparency.'"
Earlier this year, joint Turkish production of a European missile was discussed when the Turkish president met with Italian and French leaders in Brussels earlier this week, according to Turkey's top diplomat.
During NATO meetings in Brussels on the Ukraine war, the Turkish president met with Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi "and the main issue was the Eurosam SAMP-T and defense system," Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told CNBC's Hadley Gamble at the Doha Forum on Saturday.
Earlier this month, speaking at a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Erdoğan said Turkey and Italy are willing to sign an agreement as soon as possible on the SAMP-T air defense system project.
Erdoğan and Macron also discussed bilateral relations as well as regional issues, the statement said.