Russia to hold WTO talks with UAE, Saudi Arabia on April 5-6


Russia 's finance minister said on Tuesday he was planning to hold a series of "constructive talks" with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on Russia 's accession to the WTO in early April.

Russia has been seeking membership of the WTO since 1993. So far, it has completed bilateral talks with over 60 states but still needs to finalize discussions with Saudi Arabia , the United Arab Emirates and Georgia - the WTO members that still have trade disagreements with the country.

"We are planning to visit the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on April 5-6, and we are expecting constructive talks, and [hope that] some decisions will be made," said Alexei Kudrin, who is also a deputy prime minister.

He also said that during his upcoming visit to the United States (to attend the spring session of the International Monetary Bank and the World Bank), he was due to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and U.S. Department of Commerce officials to discuss Russia 's admission to the WTO.

Kudrin did not comment on the status of Russia 's WTO negotiations with Georgia .

Earlier today, Moscow 's chief WTO negotiator said Russia would hold negotiations with Georgia on joining the World Trade Organization in late April.

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

Moscow imposed a transportation blockade on Georgia in October 2006 in apparent retaliation for the detention on espionage charges of four Russian army officers. Russian officials cited commercial reasons, while Tbilisi called the move politically motivated. However, flights are set to resume between Georgia and Russia on Tuesday after a deal was struck in late February.

The South Caucasus republic says it will cease to block Russia 's WTO bid only after Moscow honors its 2004 commitment to close down its border checkpoints with Georgia 's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia . The two de facto independent republics recently appealed to Moscow for recognition of their sovereignty in the wake of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence on February 17 and tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi have been growing.

Russia 's has already completed bilateral WTO talks with both the U.S. and the EU. Multilateral talks are underway now on agricultural support, export duties, veterinary matters and intellectual piracy.