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    BELARUSSIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES CES AGREEMENT

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    MINSK, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - The lower house of the Belarussian parliament ratified, on Friday, an Agreement on the Formation of a Common Economic Space (CES), signed by the presidents of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine in Yalta in September 2003.

    RIA Novosti correspondent reports that when presenting the agreement for ratification Belarussian deputy foreign minister Vasily Pugachev reported that 94% of CIS GDP and 87% of trade turnover fall on the "Four" and that 80% of CIS population live in Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

    "This shows that the "Four" is an economically self-sufficient association," Pugachev said.

    He also stressed that the Agreement and the Concept, which is its inalienable part, are the framework documents which highlight the aims, tasks, basic principles and conditions for the CES functioning.

    Pugachev pointed out that the ratification of the Agreement will lay a strong foundation for fruitful cooperation of the four countries and will contribute to further deepening multilateral economic cooperation and enhancing integration processes in the post-Soviet space.

    Belarus is the last of the "Four" to ratify this Agreement. A representative of the Belarussian foreign ministry pointed out that in this case the Belarussian stand was substantiated since "there existed apprehensions that neither side will fully assume obligations on this Agreement." President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko instructed the Belarussian Council of Ministers to submit the Agreement on the Formation of a Common Economic Space for ratification last February.

    The discussion of the Agreement in the Belarussian parliament lasted more than an hour.

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