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Ukraine agreed on Thursday to export grain to Slovakia and pushed for a deal with Poland to end neighboring countries' restrictions on grain that Ukraine has been forced to ship overland since last year's Russian invasion.
Last week, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary imposed national restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports after EU executives decided not to renew import bans on those countries, as well as EU member states Bulgaria and Romania.
The countries argued that cheap Ukrainian produce was mainly intended for further transshipment westward and to ports where it could be sold locally, to the detriment of their own farmers. The EU imposed the ban in May, but it expired on Friday after Ukraine vowed to tighten controls.
For much of last year, about 60 percent of grain from Ukraine, one of the world's biggest exporters, was transshipped through five Eastern European countries.
The dispute escalated when Ukraine shifted westward overland after Russia de facto blocked its Black Sea ports, and the country filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the bans and threatened to impose retaliatory import restrictions.
Slovakia's agriculture ministry said it had reached an agreement with Ukraine to set up a grain trade licensing system, which, once established, would allow the lifting of a ban on Slovakia's imports of four Ukrainian commodities.
"(The ministers) agreed to establish a system of grain trade based on issuing and controlling licenses," the Slovak ministry said in an email. "Until the system is up, running and fully tested, the ban on imports of four commodities from Ukraine remains in force."
The Slovak Foreign Ministry said Ukraine had agreed to drop its complaint to the WTO. Ukrainian officials were not immediately available for comment. A WTO spokesman said there was no information on the possible cancelation of Ukraine's request for consultations.
Ukraine said its agriculture minister agreed in a phone call with Poland's agriculture minister to work out a solution to the food dispute for the benefit of both countries.
Ukraine's ambassador to Poland, Vasyl Zvarych, told Poland's state-run news agency, the People's Action Party, that "no one in Ukraine wants to create any problems for Polish farmers." He added that he thought an agreement could be reached on the food issue.
Spain's agriculture minister said Monday that the bans appeared to be illegal, while France's agriculture minister said they raised questions about European solidarity.
President Zielensky told the UN General Assembly that Kiev was trying to protect land routes for food exports, but that the "political arena" around food imports would only help Moscow, angering his neighbors.
Polish President Andrzej Duda was expected to meet Zielenski in New York, but no such meeting took place. Asked about the incident in an interview with private broadcaster TVN24, he said "the atmosphere became tense" and that he was bitter about Zielenski's comments.
But he also said that "of course" they were still friends and that he hoped to speak face-to-face with Zelensky at the first opportunity.
Ukraine last month announced the creation of a humanitarian corridor to free ships stranded in its ports bound for markets in Africa and Asia. The corridor, which abuts the west coast of the Black Sea, is designed to circumvent a de facto Russian blockade after Moscow abandoned a deal this summer that guaranteed its exports during the war.
On Thursday, the first ship loaded with grain from Ukraine using the temporary corridor to enter and exit the Black Sea arrived in Turkey's Bosphorus Strait.
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