Conditional support

Conditional support russia finally seems inclined to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty to tackle climate change. But as a quid pro quo, the country has struck a deal with the eu that will bring it closer to World Trade Organization (wto) membership. For the protocol to become a legally binding global treaty, Russia's consent is crucial.

"We are for the Kyoto process and we support it. We will accelerate progress towards ratification,' declared Russian President Vladimir Putin during the eu-Russia summit at the Kremlin on May 21, soon after striking the deal. The new development has rekindled the hopes of environmentalists, who have been on tenterhooks ever since the us rejected the pact in 2001. Klaus Toepfer, head of the un Environment Programme, observed: "This is a very welcome and positive signal. It is vital that the Kyoto Protocol enters into force as a first step towards stabilising the global climate.'

In the past few months, experts have been speculating about such a move. For his part, Putin was quite candid. "The fact that the eu has met us halfway in negotiations on the wto could not but have helped Moscow's positive attitude to the question of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol,' he stated. The deal is also a significant political victory for the Russian President at home, as it marks the end of six years of protracted negotiations with its biggest trading partner.

"Russia clearly traded its support for Kyoto in exchange for some concessions on wto entry terms,' said Christopher Weafer, chief equity strategist for Alfa Bank, Moscow, which closely follows wto accession negotiations and foreign investments in the country. One such compromise is a deal on the long-standing issue of difference in Russia's domestic and export prices of natural gas. The eu treated the cheaper domestic price as a subsidy. The latest agreement directs Russia to increase the domestic price in stages and double its current value by 2010

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