World leaders at Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit appreciated Türkiye's role in de-escalating tensions in the Russia-Ukraine war, the Turkish president has said.
"Almost all of the leaders I met especially thanked us for the role we played in reducing tensions in the Russia-Ukraine war. They said, 'We really appreciate and congratulate you for your role here'," Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday told reporters on the presidential plane en route to New York from Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Erdogan attended the SCO summit as a special guest at the invitation of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
Türkiye took part at the presidential level for the first time since getting the dialogue partner status in the organization in 2012.
Erdogan said Türkiye has been following a balanced policy between Russia and Ukraine since the beginning of the war in February.
"Of course, the most important thing is the grain corridor issue," he said, adding that he talked about this issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit.
Erdogan said they agreed that the least developed countries should benefit from the grain corridor rather than the developed ones.
Türkiye, the UN, Russia, and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul on July 22 to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, which were paused after the Russia-Ukraine war began.
Previously, Erdogan echoed Putin, saying the Ukrainian grain is exported to wealthy countries, not to those in need.
"In the next process, I hope we will make this corridor work in the most ideal way," Erdogan said.
Asked about restrictions on Russia's fertilizer exports, Erdogan said Türkiye is in talks with relevant countries on all kinds of products (either grain or fertilizer) coming from both Russia and Ukraine.
"Since we have taken the steps with such mutual negotiation and consultation until now, no serious falsity has emerged yet. In our meeting with Putin, we agreed that this process should be continued with the same caution," he added.
Putin on Friday urged the UN to push the EU to lift its sanctions blocking Russian fertilizer exports to developing countries. He pointed out that the bloc had eased curbs to let in Russian fertilizers to Europe, but was unwilling to do the same for developing countries outside the continent.
Türkiye 'targets' SCO membership
"Since its establishment, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has covered serious distances in the fields of security, economy, and trade, and has continued to expand within this framework. The decisive role played by the Asian continent in the global economy is already evident," Erdogan said.
After attending this year's SCO summit as a dialogue partner, Türkiye might take a further step in the 2023 summit in India, Erdogan said, adding that Ankara "targets" membership.
The president said Türkiye is firm in further developing its cooperation with continental countries at bilateral and multilateral levels.
Established in 2001, the eight-member organization aims to strengthen friendly, good neighborly relations and mutual trust among member states.
About wide media coverage of his image while talking to the leaders on the sidelines of the summit, Erdogan said: "(Azerbaijani President Ilham) Aliyev left that seat to me, and he took the seat next to me. Since most of them know Russian, the translator was also translating what we spoke into Russian.
"Of course, all of them really enjoyed our conversation there. It was a good moment."
Recent clashes between Azerbaijan, Armenia
About the recent clashes that erupted between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops earlier this week, Erdogan said it is important for Armenia to abandon "provocations" against Azerbaijan and focus on peace and cooperation in accordance with their earlier commitments.
"Our wish is to successfully conclude the normalization processes carried out in our region and to ensure regional peace and stability permanently," he added.
Baku has accused Yerevan of "large-scale provocations," saying saboteurs planted mines and Armenian forces carried out “intensive” firing on Azerbaijani positions.
Türkiye reiterated its support to Azerbaijan, calling on Armenia to remain committed to the agreement that ended the armed conflict in 2020.
Akkuyu nuclear power plant
Erdogan said that during the talks with Putin, they reiterated their determination to proceed with the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, currently under construction in Türkiye's southern Mersin province.
Erdogan also said Russia signed a deal with Turkish contractor IC Ictas.
"Hopefully, we will be able to finish and inaugurate the first unit in 2023," he added.
Akkuyu's first reactor is set to be operational by 2023, with the entire plant to be up and running by 2025. The project began with a 2010 intergovernmental agreement between Türkiye and Russia.