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Georgia will not continue talks on Russia's WTO bid until Moscow
Georgia will not continue talks on Russia's WTO bid until Moscow revokes its decision to support Georgia's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a deputy economics minister said on Tuesday.

"This is our new position based on new circumstances," Tamara Kovziridze, who leads the Georgian delegation at WTO talks, said live on Georgia's Public TV.

Moscow decided earlier in April to strengthen ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia and lift sanctions against Abkhazia, imposed on Moscow's initiative in 1996. Russia's envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said the move was in compliance with a UN Security Council resolution aimed at boosting Abkhazia's economic development.

Tbilisi vetoed Russia's accession to the world's largest trade body last year. Relations between the two former Soviet republics have rapidly deteriorated since the Western-leaning Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in Georgia in 2004.

On Tuesday, Moscow accused Tbilisi of military provocations in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, claiming that Georgia was preparing for an attack on the breakaway republics. Georgia has denied the claims.

Tbilisi earlier said it would cease to block Russia's WTO bid only after Moscow honors its 2004 commitment to close down its border checkpoints with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, demands Russia views as politically motivated and having no relation to the WTO.

The two de facto independent republics, which broke away from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union, recently appealed to Moscow for recognition of their sovereignty in the wake of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia on February 17.

Russia has been seeking membership of the WTO since 1993. So far, Moscow has concluded bilateral talks with over 60 states but still needs to complete discussions with two WTO members - Saudi Arabia and Georgia.

Moscow's chief WTO negotiator Maxim Medvedkov earlier said Russia could complete bilateral and multilateral talks on WTO accession and could join the organization by the end of the year.


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