Russia will study proposals by Georgia to end a dispute that could wreck Moscow’s hopes of gaining membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a Russian Economic Development Ministry spokesman said on Thursday.
“As of today, Russia is studying the proposals handed over by Swiss intermediaries and will soon voice its position on the issue,” the spokesman said.
Russia has been in membership talks with the 153-nation WTO for 17 years and remains the only major economy still outside the organization. The approval of all member states is needed before any country can be admitted and Georgia has yet to acquiesce.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Thursday, citing Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergi Kapanadze, that Tbilisi had offered Moscow new conditions on accepting its bid to join the global trade body.
The new deal proposed by Kapanadze involves setting up a neutral monitor to oversee the sale of goods involving the former Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"The essence of the proposal is international monitoring," Kapanadze said. "The ball is in the Russian court."
Russia insists that Georgia’s demands have nothing to do with trade and are not within the WTO’s jurisdiction.
The Georgia-Russia WTO talks were resumed in March this year with Switzerland’s mediation.
Russia and Georgia fought a five-day over South Ossetia in 2008. Fighting broke out when Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia in a bid to bring it under control. Russia then recognized the two republics’ independence, a move condemned by the West. Tbilisi severed diplomatic relations with Moscow following the war.