Successful mediation between Russia and Georgia by Switzerland

Bern, 09.11.2011 - Representatives of Georgia and of Russia today signed a bilateral agreement in Geneva governing customs administration and the supervision of commercial goods. The agreement was reached thanks to mediation by Switzerland. On the basis of its protective mandate for the two countries, Switzerland mediated between Russia and Georgia and brought the negotiations to a successful conclusion. The signing of the bilateral agreement paves the way for Russia to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the near future.

After the war in the summer of 2008, Russia and Georgia broke off diplomatic relations. Since then Switzerland has held a protective mandate, which means that it represents Georgia's interests in Russia and Russia's interests in Georgia. In December 2010, at the request of the two countries, Switzerland agreed to mediate in connection with Russia's negotiations to join the WTO. In negotiations lasting several months, Switzerland mediated the agreement that has now been signed by the two countries. 

President of the Swiss Confederation Micheline Calmy-Rey, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, travelled to Russia and Georgia at the end of October 2011 to hold direct talks with the Russian President Medvedev and the Georgian President Saakashvili in order to clear up the final differences of opinion and to bring the agreement to a successful conclusion. 

The agreement signed in the Geneva today establishes a mechanism agreed by the two countries to regulate customs administration and the supervision of commercial goods. The agreement envisages the deployment of a private company to conduct monitoring activities. In addition a neutral third party will be responsible for mediating in the event of difficulties and will therefore be a member of the joint committee to which the two parties also belong. At the request of Russia and Georgia, Switzerland will assume the role of this neutral third party.

Economic development of Russia and Georgia

With this agreement, the parties have paved the way for Russia to join the WTO in the near future. Switzerland is convinced that this measure will lead to improved economic development for Russia and for Georgia. A decision about membership will be taken at the WTO Conference of Ministers from 15 to 17 December 2011 in Geneva.

As part of the mediation process, the issue of mutual recognition of hallmarks for precious metals in the watch industry was also settled. This issue had still been outstanding in the framework of the WTO negotiations between Russia and Switzerland. Russia and Switzerland also agreed that Swiss airlines would not be subject to discrimination in comparison with EU airlines in connection with overflying rights over Russian territory. 

Lars Knuchel, Head of Information EDA, +41 79 277 55 60

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