Georgia Continues to Block Russian Membership in WTO

Posted October 20th, 2011 at 1:50 pm (UTC-5)
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The latest round of talks between Russia and Georgia, which could have cleared the way for Russia to join the World Trade Organization, has broken down.

After taking part in the negotiations Thursday, Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergi Kapanadze said the two sides had failed to reach an agreement, but would meet again next week.

The main impasse in the discussions is Georgia's insistence that Russia provide access to trade information in the Russian-backed Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia has recognized the two regions as independent states, and has refused to give Georgia the information. As a WTO member, Georgia, which fought a brief but bitter war with Russia in 2008 over the breakaway regions, has been able to exercise its veto power to block Russia's membership.

Joining the WTO has been a long-time goal of Russia, which started membership talks in 1993. Russia, which is the largest economy still outside the group, has the support of the United States and the European Union in reaching its goal of joining the WTO by the end of the year.

Only Russia and a handful of other countries recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations.