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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told President Biden Wednesday he is seeking a “balanced” approach when it comes to finding a solution with Russia to end the export blockade.
“We are trying to resolve the process with a balanced policy in this regard,” he said during a NATO summit meeting with Biden, reported Turkish media. “We hope that we will get results with this balanced policy.”
Ankara, which shares one of the more positive relationships with the Kremlin in NATO, has taken on the role of lead negotiator when it comes to countering the global food crisis.
RUSSIA-INDUCED GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS PUSHES 49M TO ‘BRINK’ OF FAMINE, STARVATION: EXPERT WARNS
Turkey not only sits as the closest major maritime neighbor to Russia and Ukraine, but a 1936 treaty gave it control over access to key straits in the Black Sea.
The post-World War I Montreux Convention has given Turkey 86 years of control over the major waterway along with the ability to close the straits of Bosporus and Dardanelles to all warships in times of conflict.
Erdogan did not close the strait to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warships at the onslaught of the Ukrainian invasion and accepted Moscow’s claims that its forces were returning to their home bases off the coast of Russia.
“It’s a balancing act for Turkey,” Michael Ryan, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO, told Fox News.
“The Turks see themselves as the masters of the Black Sea region. They’ve never been very comfortable with the Russian build-up of military equipment in Crimea. It definitely threatens Turkish interests,” he added.
International officials have been sounding the alarm that Russia’s war in Ukraine not only threatens the security of the region, but will have devastating effects on global food supplies.
RUSSIA WAR WILL HAVE ‘SHATTERING’ EFFECT ON FOOD SHORTAGES IN AFRICA: ‘YOU’RE GOING TO SEE GOVERNMENTS FALL’
Prior to the February invasion, Ukraine served as a leading grain, wheat and sunflower oil exporter to vulnerable nations in the Middle East and northern Africa.
But millions of tons of grain have remained holed up in Ukrainian storage units as Russian and Ukrainian naval vessels, along with hundreds of deadly sea mines, have blocked merchant ships from accessing Ukraine’s ports.
Erdogan – who faced some international ire for negotiating over NATO’s expansion to secure political gains at home – has been working with Moscow, Kyiv and the UN to resolve the issue.
“Erdogan, being a good Turkish businessman is playing all sides against each other trying to balance his advantages while minimizing his disadvantages,” Ryan explained.
Officials from Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and the UN are expected to meet in Istanbul in the coming weeks to secure export corridors.
A UN spokesperson told Fox News a meeting date had not been officially established yet but said, “Discussions are in high gear.”