Russia to hold WTO accession talks with Georgia in late April
(RIA Novosti) - Russia will hold negotiations with Georgia on joining the World Trade Organization in late April, Moscow's chief WTO negotiator said on Tuesday.
Russia has been seeking membership of the WTO since 1993. So far, Russia has concluded bilateral talks with over 60 states but still needs to complete discussions with the WTO members - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Georgia - that have trade disagreements with the country.
"We are discussing the possibility of a new meeting with Georgia, which is likely to take place in late April in Geneva where a new round of negotiations will be held," Maxim Medvedkov said.
Tbilisi earlier vetoed Russia's accession to the world's largest trade body. Relations between the two former Soviet republics have rapidly deteriorated since the Western-leaning Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in Georgia in 2004.
Moscow imposed a transportation and postal blockade on Georgia in October 2006 in apparent retaliation for the detention on espionage charges of four Russian army officers. Russian officials cited commercial reasons, while Tbilisi called the move politically motivated. However, flights are set to resume to Georgia from Russia on Tuesday after a deal was struck in late February.
The South Caucasus republic says it will cease to block Russia's WTO bid only after Moscow honors its 2004 commitment to close down its border checkpoints with Georgia's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The two de facto independent republics recently appealed to Moscow for recognition of their sovereignty in the wake of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence on February 17.
At the same time, Medvedkov said that Russia would possibly sign a protocol on concluding WTO talks with the United Arab Emirates soon.
"We hope to complete negotiations with the United Arab Emirates this week and after that we'll sign a protocol at a time convenient for the parties," Medvedkov said, adding that the document could be signed in late April.
Russia's has already completed bilateral WTO talks with both the U.S. and the EU. Multilateral talks are underway now on agricultural support, export duties, veterinary matters and intellectual piracy.