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    EU denies intention to block Russia's WTO bid over Estonia

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    The European Commission trade spokesman denied Friday media reports that the EU intends to block Russia's admission to the international trade body over a conflict with Estonia.

    BRUSSELS, May 4 (RIA Novosti) - The European Commission trade spokesman denied Friday media reports that the EU intends to block Russia's admission to the international trade body over a conflict with Estonia.

    The Daily Telegraph and European Voice newspapers have reported that the EU could stop supporting Russia's intention to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).

    "Secret EU documents reveal that patience in Europe's capitals is running out with Russia amid spiraling trade disputes and attacks this week on Estonian diplomats in Moscow," the Daily Telegraph said.

    Peter Power told journalists the EU is interested in Russia's joining the World Trade Organization, adding that just a small number of issues remain to be settled.

    Power said Russia's membership in the WTO would lay the foundation for closer bilateral economic ties and a mechanism for resolution of trade disputes, also confirming that the WTO admission issue will be discussed at the May 17-18 summit in Samara on the Volga.

    Speaking about European Voice's information, the EU spokesman said the quote was taken out of context, adding that what the publication meant was that if no compromise between Russia and Estonia is reached then the summit should be used to achieve progress in the conflict.

    The European Voice said: "The advice, jointly agreed by the European Commission, the secretariat of the Council of Ministers and the German presidency, says that Russian President Vladimir Putin should be warned at the EU-Russia summit scheduled for 18 May that support for Russia's WTO membership cannot be taken for granted if trade disagreements persist."

    Relations between Russia and Estonia hit their lowest point after Estonian authorities dismantled a Soviet-era war monument ahead of Victory Day, which is marked May 9 in Russia, saying it was a reminder of 50 years of Soviet occupation. The monument is dear to Russians as a sign of victory over the Nazis.

    The Baltic state, a European Union member since 2004, complained of security threats against its diplomatic staff after protesters tore down a flag from the embassy building in Moscow and mobbed Ambassador Marina Kaljurand before a news conference Wednesday.

    EU officials and U.S. authorities backed Estonia's right to remove the monument and expressed concern "about continuing reports of violence and harassment" near the embassy. The EU commissioner for external relations and European neighborhood policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said the Russia-EU summit in Samara would have to consider the conflict if the two countries fail to defuse tensions themselves.

    The European Commission chief spokesman said Friday the EU has no intention of postponing the summit over worsening relations between Russia and Estonia.

    Johannes Laitenberger told journalists in Brussels that he has not heard of any uncertainties connected with the prospective summit.

    Moscow has signed bilateral protocols with all but four WTO members and has yet to complete multilateral talks with its trading partners within the organization, which Russia hopes to join by the end of the year.

    In line with the decision made by foreign ministers of the 27 EU member states during their meeting in Luxembourg on April 23-24, talks will be held to preserve and expand services trade deals stipulated by partnership and cooperation agreements between the EU, Russia, and Ukraine after the two countries join the WTO.

    Russia and the EU were set to begin talks on the new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) at the Russia-EU summit in Helsinki last November 24, but the negotiations were vetoed by Poland over Russia's ban on its meat exports and Moscow's refusal to sign the Energy Charter.

    The PCA between Russia and the EU was signed June 24, 1994 in Corfu, Greece. The document entered into force December 1, 1997. It is valid for 10 years and will be extended further if the two sides deem it useful and necessary. Russia has repeatedly voiced the necessity to start talks.

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