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Putin: 'No new grain deal until West meets my demands'

Vladimir Putin & Recep Tayyip Erdogan pose for a photo ahead of talks at Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Monday, Sept. 4, 2023.
Vladimir Putin & Recep Tayyip Erdogan pose for a photo ahead of talks at Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Monday, Sept. 4, 2023. Copyright Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Copyright Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
By Euronews with AP
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Russia refused to extend the deal in July, complaining that an agreement promising to remove obstacles to Russian exports of food and fertiliser hadn’t been honored.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that a grain deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain safely through the Black Sea won’t be restored until the West meets its obligations to facilitate Russian agricultural exports.

Putin made the statement after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who along with the UN brokered the deal seen as vital for global food supplies, especially in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. 

Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other goods that developing nations rely on.

But Russia refused to extend the deal in July, complaining that an agreement promising to remove obstacles to Russian exports of food and fertiliser hadn’t been honored. It said restrictions on shipping and insurance hampered its agricultural trade even though it has shipped record amounts of wheat since last year.

Putin said that if those commitments were honored, Russia could return to the deal “within the nearest days.”

He also said that Russia is close to finalising an agreement to provide free grain to six African countries. The Russian leader added that Russia will ship 1.1 million tons) of cheap grain to Turkey for processing and delivery to poor countries.

Since Putin withdrew from the grain initiative, Erdogan has repeatedly pledged to renew arrangements that helped avoid a food crisis in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AP Pool
Putin greets Erdogan in Sochi ahead of talks, Monday 4 September 2023Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AP Pool

A lot is riding on the talks for the world food supply, and beforehand analysts predicted Putin would drive a hard bargain.

“My gut feeling is that Putin recognises the leverage he has by using food as an economic weapon, and thus will fight for all he can get in terms of concessions on his wish-list,” said Tim Benton, a food security expert at the Chatham House think tank.

Those may include Russia’s grains, or fertiliser exports, or wider issues, he said.

Data from the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, which organised the Ukraine shipments, shows that 57% of the grain from Ukraine went to developing nations, with the top destination being China, which received nearly a quarter of the food.

In addition to pulling out of the grain deal, Russia has repeatedly attacked the Odesa region, where Ukraine's main Black Sea port is. On Monday, the Ukrainian air force said it intercepted 23 of 32 drones that targeted the Odea and Dnipropetrovsk regions but did not specify damage caused by the drones that got through.

The Turkish president has maintained close ties with Putin during the 18-month war in Ukraine. Turkey hasn’t joined Western sanctions against Russia following its invasion, emerging as a main trading partner and logistical hub for Russia’s overseas trade.

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