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Calmy-Rey talks of year-end WTO entry for Russia

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey is hopeful Russia could end its 18-year-old bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) as early as December this year.

“I hope our discussion today will be fruitful and the results will allow Russia to enter the WTO by the end of the year, in December,” Calmy-Rey told President Dmitri Medvedev in his residence just outside Moscow on Sunday.

Medvedev responded by saying Russia “also very much wants that” and heaped praise on Swiss mediation efforts at the meeting, which was hastily organised over the weekend. 

Russia is closer than ever to joining the WTO after being offered a “take it or leave it” compromise last week by its tiny neighbour Georgia, the last holdout in Moscow’s bid. 

Joining the 153-member trade bloc has been an ambition of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is seeking a return to the presidency in a March 2012 vote. 

Georgia, like all WTO members, has an effective veto on Russia’s membership, which it has threatened to use unless a dispute with Russia over customs controls was resolved. Russia humiliated ex-Soviet Georgia in a brief 2008 war over Georgian breakaway region South Ossetia. They have not restored diplomatic relations. 

Russia said on Thursday it needed several days to review a proposal on border trade with Georgia made by Swiss mediators. 

Russian entry to the WTO would be the biggest step in world trade liberalisation since China joined a decade ago, and the United States and the European Union have urged all sides to try to settle membership terms by the end of this year.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR