Lavrov Says Russia Can Join WTO Bypassing Georgia
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 26 Apr.'11 / 15:28

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, did not rule out a scenario under which Russia could join the World Trade Organization (WTO) without Georgia’s consent.

“I do not want to go into details about what kind of specific ways do exist for Russia to join WTO without Georgia’s consent. I can say one thing: these possibilities are based on those principles under which the World Trade Organization is functioning,” RIA Novosti news agency quoted Lavrov as saying on April 26.

He made the remarks in Sokhumi after meeting with breakaway Abkhazia’s leader, Sergey Bagapsh.

Next round of Georgia-Russia talks on Moscow's WTO entry terms will be held in the Swiss capital, Bern, on April 28-29.

The Georgian officials have recently reiterated that Tbilisi’s position on Russia’s WTO entry terms remains unchanged and it insists that Russia provide “transparency” of border crossing points in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said in an interview with the Russian weekly magazine, Ogoniok, that Tbilisi had no intention to block Russia's WTO accession. He also said that Tbilisi was pushing for trade-related demands regulated by the WTO rules, which had nothing to do with politics or military issues.

Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Nino Kalandadze, said on April 26, that Georgia’s position on Russia’s WTO entry terms remained “unchanged.” Tbilisi has been insisting on “transparency” of trade through border crossing points in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, including through deployment there Georgian customs officers. Moscow says by pushing this demand Georgia is politicizing WTO-related talks.

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, first spoke about the possibility of joining WTO without Georgia’s go-ahead in March, shortly after the WTO talks between Georgian and Russian negotiators in Bern.

Decisions on accession to the organization are taken by the WTO’s Ministerial Conference, which meets at least once every two years, or by the General Council, which meets usually once every six to eight weeks.

According to article 12 of the WTO Agreement decisions on the term of individual accession are to be approved by a two-thirds majority of WTO’s 153 members.

But the article 9 says, that the organization’s practice is to arrive at decisions by consensus and that a vote is only taken when it’s impossible to reach a consensus.

In 1995 WTO’s General Council decided that the consensus-based decision-making should take precedence, instead of a vote. But voting still remains an option if a consensus can not be reached.

The voting, however, remains technically complicated because of absence of smaller delegations from the General Council meetings making it difficult to secure a two-thirds majority necessary for approval of decision on accession.

Commenting on Russian officials’ remarks about the possibility to join WTO bypassing Georgia’s consent, Michael McFaul, the U.S. President’s special assistant and National Security Council’s senior director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs, said on April 15, that Washington would not be in favor of that scenario as it would not be a solution of the dispute.

He said “a creative solution” should be found to the dispute by providing transparency of border crossing points in the breakaway regions without putting there Georgian customs officials.

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