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Russia WTO accession talks to be held in Georgia May 30-31 -1

(Recasts, adds details, quote in para 4)

TBILISI, May 30 (RIA Novosti) - A new round of bilateral talks on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization will be held in Georgia's capital on Wednesday and Thursday.

Delegations of the ex-Soviet countries will focus primarily on a dispute over Russian customs control points in the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia's Economic Development Ministry said.

The economics minister, Giorgi Arveladze, said his country would support Russia's accession to the global trade body, but only after the Russian side delivers on its 2004 commitment to close down checkpoints on its border with the separatist provinces.

This position was reiterated later in the day by Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili. He said: "Georgia has not changed its demands, and if Russia honors its 2004 commitments, it will be able to join the WTO. Otherwise Georgia will not give its consent."

The meeting comes just a day after Russia relaxed its ban on entry visas for Georgians for the first time since visa restrictions were imposed last September, amid a diplomatic row over the brief arrest of Russian officers on spying charges.

At the height of the dispute, Moscow also cut transportation and postal links with Tbilisi and deported hundreds of Georgian nationals.

Some analysts say the easing of the ban was aimed exclusively at securing Georgia's consent for Moscow's WTO entry.

Russia has yet to complete bilateral talks on its WTO accession with Vietnam and Cambodia, and needs multilateral approval from its trade partners within the 150-member organization.

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