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Russian media issues new details of Tbilisi-Moscow WTO talks

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, May 5
Russian media outlets have reported that on the second round of talks between Tbilisi and Moscow on Russia’s World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession, the sides “seriously discussed” a scheme, according to which it will be possible to “avoid” the physical presence of Georgian border officers at the Russian-Georgian border sections in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. Russian newspaper Kommersant published the material based on information provided by an unnamed Russian diplomat, involved in the Russia-Georgia WTO talks.

According to the Kommersant, the Russian side considers that this scheme will “satisfy” Georgia’s demand on controlling the movement of goods at the border crossing points in its breakaway regions. “The solution is as follows – as far as Georgia does not have any information about the situation at the border, some steps can be taken to improve the situation. For example the border crossing offices of Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia can issue statistics about the movement of goods across the borders,” the anonymous source told Kommersant.

Meanwhile, another Russian newspaper Izvestia issued a different possible scheme, citing an anonymous source that the sides have agreed to install satellite surveillance at the border crossing points. According to the Izvestia newspaper, “an automatic control system will be installed at the Russian-Georgian border crossing points, which will be linked with the satellite.” The newspaper writes that the satellite will monitor and automatically register the movement of goods. “This data will be available for Tbilisi any time. The main problem raised by Tbilisi about the control of the movement of goods at the borders, is solved,” the anonymous source told the Izvestia.

The Georgian side has been silent about the specific details of the second round of talks between Tbilisi and Moscow. Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, the Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Nino Kalandadze said the negotiations are held “successfully”. “I will refrain from giving out the details, because the sides have an agreement not to disclose specifics of the talks, however it is a positive step, that a very serious specific proposals have been launched,” Kalandadze said.

A WTO member since June 2000, Georgia has the right to veto the entry of any new member to the organisation; meanwhile Russia has been trying to join since 1993. Tbilisi demands the “legalisation” of border crossing points at Roki and Psou in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia and Russia started WTO negotiations on March 9 in Bern, Switzerland. Officials in Tbilisi said that Moscow is responsible for the initiative to launch talks. No details of the first round of talks were made public. The sides only revealed that the next round of talks between Tbilisi and Moscow would be held in late April.