Russia stood Thursday on the verge of ending its tortuous 18-year wait to get into the World Trade Organisation after accepting a Swiss-mediated deal that removed reservations by its arch-foe Georgia.
The decisive breakthrough came after months of closed-door diplomacy in Switzerland between two rival neighbours that have had only limited formal ties since waging a five-day war in 2008.
Russia is now finally primed to shed its status as the world's largest economy outside the world's premier free trade club by winning formal a session at a meeting tentatively set for the middle of December.
"We are happy that Georgia supported the project and that the agreement has finally been reached," Interfax quoted chief Russian negotiator Maxim Medvedkov as saying.
The news was initially broken by the Georgian side after days of silence from Moscow over what Tbilisi had clearly indicated was its final offer.
"The Russians have agreed on the Swiss proposal. We have no details about their decision, but it looks like the deal is made," Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergi Kapanadze told AFP.
Tbilisi had been demanding international monitoring of cross-border trade in its Russian-backed breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Kapanadze said that a Georgian delegation would arrive in Switzerland later Thursday for talks with the Russians and the Swiss negotiators.
"I think the agreement will be signed within several days," he said.
The World Bank estimates that WTO accession may add up to 11 percent to Russia's gross domestic product as the business process becomes more streamlined and the investment climate improves.
But analysts warn that membership has its price.
The WTO will sound the death knell for some Russian companies that sell to domestic markets that suddenly become flooded with cheaper -- and often much better -- goods.
The new rules will also hurt Russian airlines that lose the extra tariffs they levy on European carriers that fly over Siberia. And Russian farmers will have a much harder time securing protectionist policies from the state.