Russia to talk WTO bid with Georgia in Geneva on Feb. 20

By RIA Novosti

Tbilisi/ Moscow : Geneva will host the next round of talks between Russia and Georgia on Russia’s WTO bid on February 20, a Georgian economics ministry spokeswoman said on Monday.

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Georgia earlier vetoed Russia’s accession to the world’s largest trade body. Relations between the two former Soviet republics have rapidly deteriorated since the Western-leaning Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in Georgia in 2004.

“The parties will continue consultations on issues related to Russia’s bid to join the WTO during the bilateral meeting in Geneva,” the spokeswoman said.

She reiterated Georgia’s demands that joint customs checkpoints be established at borders between Russia and Georgia’s two de facto independent secessionist republics, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Both republics have expressed a strong desire to join Russia.

Georgia says Russia is illegally using two checkpoints – Gantiadi-Adler (Abkhazia) and Roki-Nizhny Zaramag (South Ossetia).

South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared their independence from Georgia in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, and bloody conflicts ensued. Georgia’s current leadership has been seeking to recover its influence in the separatist regions and secure international support on the issue.

Moscow’s WTO negotiator Maxim Medvedkov is already in Geneva holding consultations as part of multilateral talks on Russia’s WTO accession.

Besides Georgia, Moscow needs to sign bilateral agreements with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A Russian delegation is expected to meet with Saudi envoys on Monday.