The Russian Foreign Ministry said on December 22, that its WTO deal with Georgia would help Sokhumi and Tskhinvali to gain additional “attributes” for their independent status and the agreement in no way represented Tbilisi’s diplomatic victory in a sense as the Georgian leadership tried to portray it.
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“We assess positively this document, which is fully in line with the new realities, which have been established in the Caucasus after the tragic events of August, 2008,” Alexander Lukashevich, the Russian foreign ministry's spokesman said at a news conference.
“We hope the agreement will contribute to normalization of trade relations in the region in line with the WTO principles,” he added.
He then “briefly summarized” some of the provisions of the agreement, including those on establishment of three trade corridors and their locations. He also mentioned the parties’ commitments to share trade information with the WTO integrated data exchange, which Lukashevich said, Russia would have done anyway as part of the WTO rules upon the accession. He also noted about “independent audit” of these trade data. He, however, did not address some of the other aspects of the agreement, including international monitoring of trade, which according to the agreement, will be carried out by “a neutral private company”, which will be hired by Georgia and Russia and which will be accountable before Switzerland
“It is worth to note separately about Georgia’s commitments under the agreement, which we deem to be very positive,” Lukashevich said. “These commitments involve: trade terminals will be established on the points of trade [corridor] going from the Georgian territory into Abkhazia and South Ossetia; customs procedures, including filling in customs declarations, will be applied to all the cargo going through these terminals; Georgia will provide relevant statistics to the WTO data base (where, as it is known, only the data on international trade are included not on the internal trade).”
“Obviously, all these represent attributes of status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s as of independent customs territories and status of the Georgian border with them as a customs border, similar to the one of the Russian-Georgian border in the area of Verkhny Lars-Kazbegi.”
“It is important that for the first time since the August, 2008 events, Georgia has signed for the first time an international agreement, which clearly marks the points where the Georgian customs [officers] should work; these points are located on the Georgian-Abkhaz, Georgian-South Ossetian and Georgian-Russian borders,” Lukashevich said.
“Today amount of movement of cargo through the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-South Ossetian border is insignificant. But sooner or later normal trade will be restored there and when it happens commitments undertaken by Georgia under the November 9, 2011 agreement with Russia will become adequate reference point for the eventual formalization of the legal and international trade relations in the region,” he said.
“As the foregoing demonstrates, the November 9, 2011 Russian-Georgian agreement indeed does not represent ‘victory of the Georgian diplomacy’ in a sense as it was described by the Georgian officials immediately after the completion of negotiations. At the same time I want to note, that it is not a defeat for Georgia. All the stakeholders of the trade in the region will benefit if the trade relations in the region are built on the basis of recognition of realities and not on ‘phantoms’,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman added.