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  Tuesday, August 20, 2019
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Georgia's move to block talks on Russia's accession to the World
Georgia's move to block talks on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization over Russian support for Georgian breakaway regions is unjustified, Moscow's chief WTO negotiator told a business daily.

Georgia announced on Tuesday it would not continue talks on Russia's WTO bid until Moscow revokes its decision to strengthen ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two separatist regions bordering on Russia that Tbilisi says Moscow is trying to annex.

Maxim Medvedkov told Kommersant in an interview published on Wednesday: "A Georgian representative announced that his country had frozen the talks process until Russia ends its actions" on Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an instruction to the Russian government earlier this month on providing support to the separatist governments of the two provinces.

Medvedkov said the Georgian delegate claimed Putin's order "includes measures contradicting certain WTO articles, which he listed. We therefore gave another statement for WTO members demonstrating that not one word of the order is in any way related to WTO rules."

He encouraged Georgia to keep other bilateral issues out of the WTO talks process.

"We are ready to negotiate with Georgia and other partners on all issues relating to the WTO, and for other issues there are other platforms, which they use with success."

"We believe the statement by our Georgian partners and the halting of negotiations was the wrong move, one that will not solve problems that have built up in relations between Russia and Georgia, and in the context of our accession to the WTO," Medvedkov told Kommersant.

Tensions between Russia and Georgia came to a head on Tuesday, with Russia accusing Tbilisi of preparing a military strike on Abkhazia and announcing it would be sending more peacekeepers to the region.

Russia, the only major economy outside the WTO, has been seeking membership 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.

Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have been consistently difficult since the Western-leaning Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in Georgia in 2004.

Last year Tbilisi vetoed Russia's accession to the WTO demanding that Russia close down its border checkpoints with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


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