UPDATED: Polish president says Ukrainian grain row won’t significantly affect relations

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WARSAW, Sept 22 (Reuters) – A dispute between Poland and Ukraine over grain imports will not significantly affect the countries’ good bilateral relations, the Polish president said on Friday, as he moved to ease tensions over the issue.

Poland decided last week to extend a ban on Ukrainian grain imports, shaking Kyiv’s relationship with a neighbour that had been seen as one of its staunchest allies since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.

“I have no doubt that the dispute over the supply of grain from Ukraine to the Polish market is an absolute fragment of the entire Polish-Ukrainian relations,” President Andrzej Duda told a business conference.

“I don’t believe that it can have a significant impact on them, so we need to solve this matter between us.”

Slovakia, Poland and Hungary imposed national restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports after the European Union executive decided not to extend its ban on imports into those countries and fellow bloc members Bulgaria and Romania.

The countries have argued that cheap Ukrainian agricultural goods – meant mainly to transit further west and to ports – get sold locally, harming their own farmers. The EU, which imposed its ban in May, let it expire on Friday after Ukraine vowed to tighten controls.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy angered his neighbours when he told the United Nations General Assembly that Kyiv was working to preserve land routes for grain exports, but that the “political theatre” around grain imports was only helping Moscow.

Duda had been expected to meet Zelenskiy in New York, but no such meeting took place. Asked about it in an interview with private broadcaster TVN24 on Thursday, he said “the atmosphere has become tense” and that he felt bitter about Zelenskiy’s words.

Yet he also said “of course” they were still friends and that he hoped to speak face-to-face with Zelenskiy as soon as the opportunity arose.

Photo: Polish President Andrzej Duda . EPA-EFE/PAWEL SUPERNAK

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