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Georgia will support Russia's bid to join the world's largest trade body only after it starts using Tbilisi-controlled customs checkpoints
Georgia will support Russia's bid to join the world's largest trade body only after it starts using Tbilisi-controlled customs checkpoints, Georgian diplomats and economic officials said Tuesday. Russia is currently using customs checkpoints in Georgia's breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. "Georgia's main demand in Russia's WTO bid is that it use legal customs checkpoints," a statement of the Foreign and Economic Development Ministries said. Georgia withdrew its signature from Russia's World Trade Organization bid in July, demanding that Moscow abolish its import ban on Georgian wine and mineral water. Deputy Economic Development Minister Vakhtang Lezhava said last week that Tbilisi wants Russia to conduct its trade with Georgia through legal checkpoints. "Trade through checkpoints on the territories of the self-proclaimed Abkhazia and South Ossetia is illegal," Lezhava said. Russia signed a bilateral WTO deal with its main trading partner, the United States, in Hanoi last weekend, but it must still close bilateral protocols with Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador and Moldova, as well as renegotiate its entry with Georgia. The Georgian government reaffirmed, however, its interest in Russia becoming a WTO member, and said its proposal to shortly resume bilateral talks remained in force. Relations between Georgia and Russia have been strained since the Western-leaning government of President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in the South Caucasus republic in 2003. Tensions mounted after Tbilisi briefly detained four Russian Army officers on spying charges in September. In response, Moscow deported several hundred Georgian migrants, who it said were in the country illegally, and cut transportation and postal links with its southern neighbor.
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