Friday, October 7, 2022

Putin seeks talks with Erdogan over Ukraine grain deal

Putin seeks talks with Erdogan over Ukraine grain deal

MOSCOW (AFP) - The Kremlin said on Friday that President Vladimir Putin will discuss with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a landmark deal allowing grain exports from Ukraine that Russia has repeatedly criticised.

The agreement between Russia and Ukraine, which was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July, designated three ports for Kyiv to send much-needed grain supplies through a Russian blockade.

But Russia has voiced increasing criticism of the deal, saying its own exports have suffered. Putin this week claimed most of the consignments were arriving in Europe, not poor countries where grain was needed most.

Ukrainian officials have denied the claim and data compiled by a monitoring group as part of the accord does not reflect Putin's assertion. "We consider it right to increase deliveries to the poorest countries," Putin said at the start of a Security Council meeting on Friday.

Moscow has also accused the West of preventing Russian exports by implementing sanctions over Ukraine. The penalties do not directly target Russian agricultural products but disrupt financial and logistics chains.

"There are technical issues that are currently being resolved, including through the UN," Putin said, adding that he was ready to export "up to 50 million tonnes or more" of Russian grain by the end of 2022 "because we have a good harvest this year".

'Much needed' conversation 

The Russian leader also slammed the decision of the European Commission to prevent "markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America" from importing fertiliser from Russia and its ally Belarus via European ports. "Discrimination against countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America is unacceptable," he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday that a meeting between Putin and Erdogan over the grain deal was "possible and necessary". 

Talks are "already being prepared and we are hoping they will take place in Samarkand", Peskov added, referring to a regional summit in Uzbekistan next week. "This conversation is much needed."

Ukraine and Russia are two of the world's biggest exporters of wheat and other grains, and the blockade of Kyiv's ports raised global prices and provoked fears of severe shortages.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko told reporters on Friday that any extension of the deal beyond its deadline in November would depend on "how all aspects are implemented".

"Unfortunately, it's not being implemented quite as planned," he said. "The second part of the deal, namely exports of Russian grains and fertilisers, unfortunately still face difficulties," he said, according to comments carried by Russian news agencies.