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Wed, Nov 22, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Georgia threatens to block Russia's WTO accession


Georgia has threatened to block Russia's accession to the WTO if the two countries fail to agree on customs regulations and resume talks on the ban of key exports to Russia.

In a joint statement released late on Monday the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry for Economic Development said the Georgian government was "interested in Russia's entry to WTO," but added that if the agreement is not reached, "the process of Russia's accession to WTO will be suspended."

Georgia demands that Russia stop trading with its two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and that all goods pass through checkpoints run by the central government.

The statement comes days after Russia secured a much-sought bilateral agreement with the US, removing the last major obstacle in Moscow's 13-year journey to join the world's biggest trading club.

To become a WTO member, Russia must secure similar agreements with all its major trading partners in the body. Georgia, which has already concluded such a deal with Russia, has suggested that it would re-negotiate terms or recall the agreement because of what it calls illegal trade and because of a Russian ban on Georgian wine and mineral water.

Moscow banned the goods in spring, citing quality concerns. Tbilisi claims the ban is punishment for its pro-Western course.

Relations between Russia and Georgia are at an all-time low after Moscow slapped a sweeping transport and postal blockade on the country in retaliation for the brief arrest of four Russian officers in Tbilisi accused of spying.

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