Switzerland supWTOrts Russia18.07.2011 | 11:26
Despite heavy talks between Georgia and Russian on Russia' s WTO membership, the positive result is likely. Russian FM Sergey Lavrov, now back from Washington, states that Switzerland's proposals on resolution of contradictions between Moscow and Tbilisi are logical and conceptual. But will this document be accepted in Sakartvelo? Will both countries manage to come to terms? GeorgiaTimes correspondent discussed that with well-known politologists - Sergey Miheev and Giya Huhashvili.
Russia's eventual membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been discussed between Tbilisi and Moscow for too long. Three rounds have passed and tings haven't moved an inch. The point is that the Georgian side insists on having its border service present in Abkhazia and South Ossetia on the pretext of ensuring transparency. This demand is absurd - putting it mildly. Three years ago Russia acknowledged independence of the Transcaucasian republics - independence from Saakashvili's regime included - so the access to the territory of sovereign states for Georgian monitors is not even considered.
For Georgia, on the contrary, this issue was a matter of principle for a long time. Even though the States so ardently respected by Mishiko repeatedly hinted that it makes no sense to politicize discussions. As early as in April Special Assistant to the US President Michael McFall highlighted there are no irresolvable issues that can hamper Russia's WTO entry between Tbilisi and Moscow. Even the fundamental border issue can be solved. "We believe there is a productive solution that does not involve deployment of customs officers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia on Russian borders", - he said.
The politologists and experts suggest that the idea is to substitute Georgian border guards with international monitors. Yet nobody knew what monitors these would be. Later it became clear that Mishiko got afraid of testing Obama's patience. He hinted that it would be "the smallest price" for Russia to agree to Tbilisi's demand on establishing "an international monitoring mechanism" for trade turnover on borders between the Russian Federation, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Well, see above what price the Georgian leader paid for that.
Now that Russian FM Sergey Lavrov is coming back from his transoceanic tour, talks between Moscow and Tbilisi will be completed, hopefully. The Russian minister remarked that Moscow had given a positive feedback to Switzerland's mediation proposal in Russian-Georgian debates. "Switzerland has prepared a document to be discussed in Georgia and in Russia, - Lavrov said. - I find this document logical and conceptual since it is part of WTO agenda". According to the diplomat, the customs control on Russian borders can be transparent "so that everyone be satisfied".
The White House too, is positive - at least verbally. US president Barack Obama expresses support for Russia's efforts to complete the process of WTO entry this year, and secretary of state Hillary Clinton states that Russia's membership will let both countries increase the trade turnover and deepen economic ties.
By all appearances, the only thing left to do is to coordinate Switzerland's proposals with Georgia. Or is there another catch? GeorgiaTimes correspondent asked vice president of the Center for Political Conjuncture Sergey Miheev and Giya Huhashvili, a Georgian economic expert about possible results of the complicated talks.
Miheev: I think after a visit to the USA Lavorv hopes that Americans will put pressure on Georgia. It is totally obvious that Washington is playing this kind of game on WTO issue: they claim to favor Russia's entry but there are Georgians, so you have to start talks with Saakashvili. This is what Moscow is being pushed to, as far as I understand. But probably Lavrov heard something else during this visit that makes him be more optimistic. Anyway Georgia will have more demands, and I don't think that the continuation of talks will be simple or that Saakashvili rejects anything he spoke of before overnight. In this case everything will depend on how he will be conditioned by Americans. The Georgian president is a secondary figure here. Considering the fact that US sincerity can't be trusted, chances to come to terms are 50/50. At best.
Huhashvili: It's difficult for me to judge in the lack of available information. It's unknown what these backstage talks are about. It is hard to forecast the situation too but I think the parties are trying to come to terms without making fools of themselves at home. Probably, a political decision on the issue has been already taken, but Moscow and Tbilisi are not ready to make serious concessions. Most probably, the countries are now thinking of the form, not the content. As for Georgia's demand to allow its border guards into the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, everyone realizes that the idea makes no sense at all. It is completely unfeasible. I think this demand will be dismissed and there will be a new statement formalizing a retreat as a victory.