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    Upbeat note on Russia's WTO accession deal with Georgia

    The Moscow Times reports that Russian Trade Minister German Gref is upbeat about a deal with Georgia on Russia's accession to WTO. It quotes remarks Gref made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland: "We have not disposed of all claims […] We have conducted quite positive negotiations and outlined prospects to make our positions closer. We see obvious progress."

    For his part, Georgian President Saakashvili, in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio station on 27 January, said his country wants Russia to legalize trade at the two border crossing points with Georgia located in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as a precondition for Georgia's go-ahead to Russia's WTO accession. He added, "Russia's WTO membership is in our long-term interests." Of talks held between officials in Geneva the previous week, Saakashvili said "Technical issues [have been discussed] and we do not want to politicise them and to put them up for public discussion."

    Meanwhile, Russian daily Kommersant reported a 2 February meeting between Head of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "to discuss the main part of the problem connected with Russia's accession to the WTO. The talks […] may result in abolition by the US of the Jackson-Vanik amendment in regard to Russia," notes Kommersant.

    The Jackson-Vanik Amendment is contained in Title IV of the 1974 Trade Act. It effectively denies unconditional normal trade relations to certain countries, including Russia, that had non-market economies and that restricted emigration rights. Ending the application of the Jackson-Vanik provisions to Russia requires legislation by the US Congress