Georgia, Russia may continue WTO talks in April
Georgian-Russian talks on Russia`s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) could continue in April, a spokesman for the Georgian government said Friday, according to RIA Novosti.
The talks resumed on Thursday in Switzerland after being suspended for almost three years following Russia`s decision to lift economic sanctions against Georgia`s breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in April 2008.
"The talks were held in Bern yesterday [March 10]. The sides agreed to hold the next meeting probably in April, although the exact date and place have not been specified," Nikoloz Mchedlishvili said.
Russia has been in membership talks with the 153-nation WTO for 17 years and remains the only major economy still outside it. The European Union gave its formal backing to the country`s entry bid in December last year after Russia agreed to trim timber export duties and rail freight tariffs.
However, Georgia says it will not allow Russia to join the global free trade club unless it cedes control of customs in the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Washington supported Russia`s WTO bid and had tried to talk Georgia out of blocking Russia`s accession, but he said the U.S. government could not provide guarantees on the issue.
Georgia severed diplomatic relations with Russia in August 2008 when Moscow recognized the independence of the two former Georgian republics following a five-day war, which started when Georgia attacked South Ossetia in an attempt to bring it back under central control.