Georgia and Russian negotiators will start talks over Moscow’s WTO bid in the Swiss capital Bern on Thursday, the Georgian government’s spokesman told Civil.ge.
PM’s senior aide and Georgia’s long-time chief negotiator over WTO issues, Tamar Kovziridze, as well as Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergi Kapanadze, will take part in the meeting, Nikoloz Mchedlishvili, the PM’s spokesperson, said.
Details remain sketchy, but as one senior ruling party lawmaker, Petre Tsiskarishvili, said on March 9, the meeting in Bern would not involve discussing “substantive issues”; he said the meeting would focus on drafting an agenda and schedule for further talks.
Georgian officials indicated ahead of talks that Tbilisi’s position remained “unchanged” and it would still insist on providing “transparency” on border crossing points in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as providing access of Georgian customs officers to those checkpoints.
There are also suggestions in Tbilisi to offer Moscow “a compromise solution” involving deployment of EU monitors on the border with Russia in Abkhazia and South Ossetia – the solution modeled under the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM).
The Russian daily, Kommersant, reported on March 10, citing an unnamed high ranking official from the Russian Foreign Ministry that neither of the Tbilisi’s proposals seem realistic.
“During the meeting in Bern the Georgian side will be trying to achieve deployment of customs officers in the outer perimeter of Abkhaz and South Ossetian sections of border with Russia. This is impossible. [Tbilisi] should talk about it with not with us, but with the authorities of independent states [referring to Abkhazia and S.Ossetia],” the Kommersant quoted Russian diplomat.
The same source told the newspaper that deployment of EU monitors was also not possible.
“Can the EU mission be present on the Abkhaz border and have no relations with the Abkhaz authorities, who are not recognized by the EU?” the source was quoted.
The Russian diplomat also said that unlike between Ukraine and Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdnistria, trade on the Russian-Abkhaz and Russian-South Ossetian borders was of insignificant amount.
“So [Georgia’s demands] have nothing to do with WTO-related issues… Their [Georgian authorities’] demands should be realistic,” the Russian Foreign Ministry official was quoted.