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Monday, October 2, 2023

Putin Links Grain Deal to Western Demands

Putin: No Grain Deal Until Western Demands Met; Talks with Erdogan Falter Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Monday that the landmark deal allowing Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea amid the ongoing conflict will not be reinstated until the West fulfills Moscow’s demands regarding its own agricultural exports.

Putin’s statement dashed hopes of reviving the agreement during talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This agreement is considered crucial for global food supplies, particularly in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Russia had refused to extend the deal in July, citing unfulfilled promises in a parallel agreement that aimed to remove obstacles to Russian food and fertilizer exports. Russia claimed that shipping and insurance restrictions were hindering its agricultural trade, despite record wheat shipments in recent years.

Putin reiterated these concerns on Monday but suggested that Russia could return to the deal “within days” if the commitments were honored.

Erdogan expressed optimism about a potential breakthrough and mentioned that Turkey and the UN, both of which had brokered the original deal, have assembled a new set of proposals to resolve the issue.

The outcome of these negotiations holds significant implications, as Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other goods relied upon by developing nations.

Data from the Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul, which organized shipments under the deal, revealed that 57% of Ukrainian grain went to developing nations, with China being the top destination.

Although grain prices initially surged after Russia withdrew from the agreement, they have since stabilized. However, experts like Tim Benton, a food security specialist at the Chatham House think tank, express concern about the long-term outlook, particularly in light of potential weather patterns like El Niño.

In an effort to mitigate criticism and address the needs of developing nations, Putin mentioned that Russia is close to finalizing an agreement to provide free grain to six African countries. Last month, he pledged grain shipments to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Eritrea, and the Central African Republic. Additionally, Russia intends to ship 1 million metric tonnes of low-cost grain to Turkey for processing and delivery to impoverished nations.

Besides withdrawing from the grain deal, Russia has repeatedly targeted Ukraine’s Odesa region, home to Ukraine’s primary Black Sea port. Prior to the Sochi meeting, the Kremlin’s forces launched a second consecutive attack on the area.

The Ukrainian air force reported intercepting 23 out of 32 drones targeting Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk regions, without specifying the extent of damage caused by the successful drone strikes.

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