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Ukraine to obtain observer status in Customs Union: PM


19:24, April 23, 2013

KIEV, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Tuesday that his country managed to reach a basic arrangement for observer status in the Customs Union (CU), the three-nation free trade bloc grouping Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

"We reached the fundamental decision. In my opinion, the decision was already made and it is a technical issue now," Azarov said during his meeting with foreign journalists.

The observer status will give Kiev an opportunity to participate in the meetings of the CU board, but will not allow Ukraine to influence decision-making in the union, Azarov said.

Azarov said Ukraine hopes to sign cooperation agreement with the free trade block in May.

Russia has long asked Ukraine to join the CU, offering cheaper natural gas and other economic benefits, but it has ruled out Kiev's entry on any special scheme of cooperation.

Ukraine, which has proclaimed a strategic course of Euro-integration, is reluctant to obtain full CU membership and has long sought ways to cooperate with the Russia-led bloc under mutually beneficial conditions.

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