Russia sees WTO deal with Georgia 'within hours'

30th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia said Sunday it expected a deal with Georgia to be struck within hours that could pave the way for Moscow's WTO membership in December after an 18-year negotiating process.

President Dmitry Medvedev's top economic adviser Arkady Dvorkovich said after talks with the visiting Swiss head of state Micheline Calmy-Rey that only a few technicalities needed to be resolved in the talks with Georgia.

Medvedev met Calmy-Rey -- whose country has mediated talks between Russia and its neighbour -- for previously unannounced talks at his suburban Moscow residence.

Georgia is the last WTO member to oppose the membership terms offered by Russia -- a neighbour it views with mistrust following the two sides' brief war in 2008.

But Dvorkovich said after Medvedev's talks with Calmy-Rey that a deal with Georgia seemed imminent.

"I think that all the questions will be agreed within the coming hours," Dvorkovich was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

He added that the Swiss delegation would be flying to the Georgian capital Tbilisi later Sunday.

"Depending on how the talks in Tbilisi go, there may be additional telephone consultations between the Swiss mediators and the Russia side, if these are needed," the Kremlin adviser said.

Calmy-Rey said at the start of her meeting with Medvedev that she hoped her visit would have the end result of allowing Russia -- the world's largest economy outside the WTO -- to join by the end of the year.

"We would also like to see that happen," Medvedev was quoted as saying in reply.

Russia's optimistic comments came three days after Georgia accepted a "final proposal" from mediators that could finally bring a positive end to Russia's 18-year campaign to join the world's premier free trade club.

Russia previously said it would give its response to the terms accepted by Georgia next week.

The former Soviet state had been demanding international monitoring of cross-border trade in the Russian-backed breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Georgian officials say the proposed compromise deal would see a private company contracted by a third international party physically and electronically monitoring goods entering and leaving the breakaway regions.

© 2011 AFP

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