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Russian-Ukraine war: Erdogan says grain deal will be revived 'soon'

Putin pushes back saying no new grain deal without Russian demands being met
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan following talks in Sochi, 4 September 2023 (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday it would soon be possible to revive the Ukraine grain deal and ease the food crisis precipitated by the Russian invasion.

Following talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday, Erdogan said Ankara believes "we will reach a solution that will meet the expectations in a short time".

Putin, however, said there would be no new deal unless Russia's demands were met.

Moscow withdrew from the deal, which was set up to maintain grain exports from the country, in July, citing unmet written pledges by the UN and western powers.

Russia has made several demands to revive the deal, such as the Russian Agricultural Bank’s inclusion in the Swift global payment system, and the repair of the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline to export Russian fertiliser.

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Among Moscow's demands are also the solution to the Russian ship insurance problem, where ship insurers said last year they would be cancelling war risk coverage across Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, as well as the unfreezing of assets of Russian companies operating in the food sector by western allies.

Speaking beside Erdogan on Monday, Putin said Russia would only return to the deal if western powers stopped restricting Russian agricultural exports.

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"We will be ready to consider the possibility of reviving the grain deal and I told Mr President about this again today," he said.

"We will do this as soon as all the agreements on lifting restrictions on the export of Russian agricultural products are fully implemented."

He also denied western claims that Russia had intentionally stoked a food crisis by exiting the deal, pointing out that prices did not rise on its exit from the deal.

"There is no physical shortage of food," Putin said.

Putin’s foreign trips have been restricted to former Soviet Union republics since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February last year, with the only exception being Iran, where the Russian army gets its supplies of kamikaze drones and other hardware.

Putin’s security concerns during a visit to a Nato ally might have played a role in avoiding Turkey.

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