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Moscow's agreement with Washington on Russia's bid to join the world's largest trading club has failed to change Georgia's position
Moscow's agreement with Washington on Russia's bid to join the world's largest trading club has failed to change Georgia's position, the economics minister said Wednesday. Russia has completed nearly all bilateral talks required to join the World Trade Organization. Georgia, however, withdrew its signature in July, saying Russia must trade with its southern neighbor through Tbilisi-controlled checkpoints. Giorgy Arveladze said "the preliminary agreement between Russia and the United States cannot change Georgia's position." 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, and renegotiate its entry with Georgia. Russia is currently using checkpoints in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are not controlled by the central authorities. "Georgia will back Russia's WTO bid only after Russia meets the commitments it assumed in the spring of 2004 to use legal checkpoints in Abkhazia and South Ossetia," the minister said. His Russian counterpart, German Gref, said Tuesday that the situation with Georgia would hopefully be resolved. "Georgia's case is extraordinary, but I hope we will find a solution," Gref said. "It is good that our Georgian colleagues have specified their position, and did not just say 'we are against,'" the Russian minister said. Gref warned Georgia against using the language of ultimatums. "Georgia's language of ultimatums in relation to Russia has escalated tensions," he said in an apparent reference to a recent diplomatic spat. In late September, Georgia briefly detained four Russian officers on espionage charges. Russia cut off transport and postal links to its neighbor and deported hundreds of Georgian migrants, saying they were in the country illegally. "It would be more productive if we use confidence-building measures and fulfill our promises," he said and called for a dialogue. 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. In March, Russia banned Georgian wines and mineral water, which was a heavy blow to the economy of the tiny nation.
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