BRUSSELS/MOSCOW, May 22 (RIA Novosti) - The European Union seeks Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization, according to Leticia Spetchinski, a leading expert on Russia-EU relations at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), has said in an interview with Le Soir newspaper.

The newspaper asked Ms Spetchinski to comment on the EU-Russia summit that took place in Moscow on May 21.

The EU has for a long time now been prepared to develop common economic space with Russia, according to the expert. The EU is therefore interested in Russia's accession to the WTO as it will result in the convergence of trade rules and relations in general, while disputable issues will be settled in line with WTO procedures, according to Ms Spetchinski.

All advances are designed to convince companies that they will be able to invest in a more stable and predictable environment.

When asked whether the YUKOS oil major affair may affect foreign investment in the Russian economy, Ms Spetchinski said that President Putin had done everything to convince the international community that it was not a precedent and managed to restore trust.

Ms Spetchinski noted a strong interdependence between the EU and Russia. Europe is interested in energy resources imports from Russia, which its fifth largest trade partner, according to the expert.

Membership in the WTO will allow Russia to secure a considerable inflow of foreign investment, which it needs desperately, for example, to update its infrastructure and energy sector.

However, the expert believes Russia's WTO membership is more of a political, rather than economic issue.

After the end of the communist era Russia has been seeking to reintegrate into international organizations and regain the status of a world power. Staying outside the WTO after China has joined the organization would be wrong, according to the expert.

Russia has consolidated its position in international relations by signing the protocol with the EU, Mikhail Margelov, in charge of the international affairs committee of the Russian Federation Council (parliament's upper chamber), said Friday.

"/The protocol/ will not ensure Russia's entry to the organization, but it is a major step in this direction," said Mr. Margelov.

By integrating into the international trade system Russia will acquire some advantages and disadvantages in economic terms, according to the senator. However, Russia's position will consolidate considerably with respect to international relations.

President Putin has given a high assessment to the protocol between Russia and the European Union.

"This is a long-needed and well-balanced understanding," the president said at a news conference after the summit in Moscow on Friday.

The president thanked the EU partners for their constructive approach to and cooperativeness at WTO talks.

"This /protocol/ will have a positive impact on Russia's talks with South Korea, the United States and other major trade partners," said Mr. Putin.

"We believe that the conditions of joining the WTO must be agreeable for Russia," emphasized Mr. Putin.

President Putin warned against premature comments on the YUKOS affair and invited to wait for a court ruling on the matter.

"I think it is unacceptable and wrong to discuss YUKOS-related issues now as it may exert pressure on the court," said the president.

Russia and the EU signed the protocol on Friday, which marked an end to bilateral WTO talks.

The protocol contains the parties' agreement on lower import duties, stipulates the conditions of banking, insurance and telecommunications services' access to the Russian market.

Russia had earlier signed relevant protocols with other WTO member-countries, including Kyrghyzstan, New Zealand, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Israel.

Russia is expected to finish tariff-related talks with Japan and South Korea within a month.

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