Kiev Seeks Joint Talks On Gas Trade, WTO

APPutin and Lukashenko
MINSK — Ukraine said Friday that it would hold talks on Russian natural gas supplies with Moscow simultaneously with negotiations on Russia's membership in the World Trade Organization.

"I believe that simultaneously preparing a strategic agreement on Russian gas supplies to Ukraine … there will be negotiations on the Russian Federation's accession to the WTO," Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko told journalists after meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine depends heavily on Russian gas supplies and it also transits the bulk of Russian gas to Europe, accounting for one-quarter of European Union needs.

Moscow and Kiev have had repeated gas pricing disputes which once led to the interruption of Russian exports to Europe, sending jitters to both EU politicians and industrial producers.

Russia remains the biggest economy still outside the WTO. Ukraine ratified a protocol of joining the WTO last month.

Under WTO rules, all member states can require prospective new members to make commitments about their trade rules and economic practices.

But Tymoshenko said Kiev had no plans to hold up Russia's accession. "Ukraine, just like Russia, will spare no effort for these two [negotiating] processes not to be linked," she said.

She said she had agreed with Putin to start talks on the strategic agreement on Russian gas supplies in the near future. She gave no detailed timeframe.

"I believe that if we manage to sign this agreement for a long term — for five or … even 10 years — this will be a great breakthrough," she said.

"This will ensure stability not only for our two countries, but also for the whole region, including the European Union. … We achieved mutual understanding."

For Moscow, joining the WTO would make it easier for Russian exporters to sell their products while at the same time its own market would open up further for foreign companies.

Putin also used the visit for talks on energy, transportation and military technology with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, Interfax said