December 6, 2017 / 12:28 PM / in 10 months

Russia to continue sending grain aid to Syria - deputy PM

LONDON (Reuters) - Russia is likely to continue deliveries of grain crops to Syria as part of humanitarian aid supplies, irrespective of the military situation, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said on Wednesday.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich speaks during an interview at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia, June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Russia, one of the world’s largest wheat exporters, supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the long-running civil war in Syria and has previously helped his government with wheat aid.

“We truly believe that the humanitarian aid is needed in Syria now, not conditional on the military situation in Syria,” Dvorkovich told reporters on a visit to London.

Dvorkovich, who is in charge of the agriculture sector in the Russian government, said he could not disclose the timing or conditions of future grain supplies from Russia, which has surplus supplies after a record grain harvest this year.

Syria was once self-sufficient in wheat production but continued fighting in the main grain-producing areas in its northeastern regions and poor rainfall reduced the country’s harvest last year.

Russia is actively looking to expand its export markets for grain after its record harvest and as prospects for next year’s crop also look good, although the government’s preliminary estimates vary.

Dvorkovich said on Wednesday that Russia’s 2018 grain crop could rise by between 1 and 2 percent year-on-year, but Pyotr Chekmarev, head of the agriculture ministry’s crop growing department, said next year’s crop may lag this year’s record.

Reporting by Dasha Afanasieva and Clara Denina; writing by Polina Devitt; editing by Louise Heavens and Susan Fenton

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