Biden calls Georgia's president, hails WTO entry deal
Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday hailed a deal between Georgia and Russia on Moscow's World Trade Organization accession, in a phone call to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, the White House said.
Biden "spoke by telephone with President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia this afternoon to congratulate him on the agreement signed in Geneva today establishing a trade monitoring arrangement between Georgia and Russia," the statement said.
The US vice president commended Saakashvili "for his leadership in the talks and called the agreement a historic step that has the potential to increase economic ties between the peoples of both countries and help reduce tensions in the region."
The Swiss-mediated accord, described as "a victory" by Tbilissi, will see international monitoring of cross-border trade through Georgia's Kremlin-backed breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, despite Moscow's initial rejection of external oversight.
Russia submitted its application to join the WTO in 1993 but talks dragged on and its membership bid was further delayed after its brief war with Georgia in 2008.
As a member of the WTO, Georgia is able to veto any accession bid, and it was only after months of Swiss-mediated talks that Tbilisi and Moscow finally reached a bilateral agreement.
The accord includes the deployment of a private firm to monitor the situation on the ground. A neutral third party -- Switzerland -- will also play the mediator role "in the event of difficulties."
The Russian parliament would also have to ratify the overall WTO deal for it to come into force.
While President Dmitry Medvedev has been enthusiastic about WTO entry, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has blown hot and cold on the issue.
© 2011 AFP