EXCLUSIVE-Russia releases first cargo of wheat to Saudi Arabia -sources

By Polina Devitt and Michael Hogan

MOSCOW/HAMBURG, April 9 (Reuters) - A symbolic 60,000 tonne cargo of Russian wheat has set sail for Saudi Arabia from a Black Sea port seven months after conditions were set to allow the trade, three sources told Reuters on Thursday.

The cargo is being sent by a trading house under a tender with optional origin it won a couple of months ago, sources said.

Saudi Arabian state grain buyer SAGO did not reply to a Reuters request for immediate comment.

Russia, the world's largest wheat exporter, has long sought access to the Saudi market.

Saudi Arabia last August moved to smooth a path for Russian wheat imports by relaxing import specifications.

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That was seen as a sign of strengthening ties with Moscow beyond cooperation on oil, weeks before Russia's President Vladimir Putin visited the country.

The shipment comes at another crucial moment in relations between Moscow and Riyadh as OPEC and Russia meet on Thursday to try to agree what would be the biggest cut in oil output ever.

It has taken seven months to kick-start wheat supplies as Russian wheat was expensive compared with other origins available to the Saudi market.

(Reporting by Polina Devitt and Michael Hogan; additional reporting by Forrest Crellin and Gleb Stolyarov; editing by Veronica Brown and xxx)

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