By Alan Charlish
WARSAW (Reuters) -A dispute between Poland and Ukraine over grain imports will not significantly affect 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 has 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.”
Meanwhile, in an article for Politico, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said Poland wanted to see “a strong Ukrainian state emerge from this war with a vibrant economy” and that Warsaw “will continue to back Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO and the EU”.
“There’s absolutely no contradiction here.” Rau wrote. “Supporting Ukraine against Russia’s invasion and protecting our citizens and safeguarding them against unfair economic competition — both serve Poland’s interest simultaneously.”
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 EU 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.
At an election campaign rally on Friday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Warsaw would take matters into its own hands again if it saw a need.
“If there is destabilisation of other markets… and the European Commission doesn’t act we will again take unilateral action on our side,” he said. “In defence of the Polish farmer I will never hesitate to take such a decision.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy angered his neighbours when he told the United Nations General Assembly in New York that Kyiv was working to preserve land routes for grain exports, but that the “political theatre” around grain imports was only helping Moscow.
Speaking to journalists in New York, Rau said he had been “deeply affected” by Zelenskiy’s words and that while Poland had not changed its policy towards Ukraine, there had been a “radical change in Polish public opinion’s perception” of the countries’ relations.
Asked by state-run news agency PAP what it would take to improve this perception, Rau said repairing the atmosphere would require a “titanic” diplomatic effort.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Alex Richardson, Jonathan Oatis and Gareth Jones)
Brought to you by www.srnnews.com