A diplomatic dispatch from series of leaked U.S. embassy cables shows that the gist of Russia-Georgia WTO talks has not changed much over last five years with trade across disputed border remaining the central part of disagreement.
The May, 2006 cable, released by WikiLeaks late last month, is unclassified, but designated "For Official Use Only” containing “sensitive” information; it details a meeting between then Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister and U.S. diplomat ahead of May, 2006 talks between Georgian and Russian negotiators in Tbilisi on Moscow’s WTO entry terms.
Then U.S. ambassador to Georgia, John Tefft, reported to Washington that Tbilisi was suggesting that “EU-monitored border crossings in Transdnistria could serve as a model to resolve the Georgia-Russia impasse.”
Georgia still insists on international monitoring, preferably by the EU, of trade across the disputed borders, combined with exchange of advance cargo information – the two components, which Tbilisi says will secure transparency of trade across the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sections of its border with Russia. Georgia and Russia resumed WTO talks under the Swiss mediation in March, 2011; the next round of talks are planned this month.
“Georgia shows every intention of sticking by its guns on the border crossing issue. This is Georgia's only point of leverage in the strained bilateral relations with its giant northern neighbor, and the Georgians are determined to use it to establish some control over the unregulated, illegal trafficking of goods, HEU [highly enriched uranium], counterfeit U.S. dollars, persons and weapons that is thought to take place through the conflict regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Ambassador Tefft writes in the May, 2006 cable.
“Any solution acceptable to Georgia will be a tough sell to the Abkhaz and South Ossetians, who are supported by Russia,” he wrote, adding that Tbilisi was “avoiding politicizing the issue”.
He also wrote that although Russia at the time still had to complete complex multilateral discussions on its drive to join WTO, Georgia’s “objections are the only remaining hurdle to its accession.”