Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday that Georgia's goodwill in negotiations on Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization could help restore ties between the two ex-Soviet nations frozen after their 2008 war.
Russia is the largest economy still outside the WTO, which regulates trade between its 153 member states, despite being in talks to join since 1993. It needs to negotiate its accession with individual WTO member states, and its conflict with Georgia has left talks in a deadlock.
Medvedev said Thursday that Moscow wouldn't make any political concessions in the WTO talks with Georgia, but added that Georgia's goodwill could help restore ties.
"That may become if not a turning point, then a point of interaction that could help restore trade and economic ties and later, probably, diplomatic relations," he said in an interview with Russian and Georgian broadcasters.
The conflict erupted when Georgian troops tried unsuccessfully to regain control over the Moscow-backed rebel province of South Ossetia, and Russia sent troops that routed the Georgian military in five days of fighting in August 2008. Georgia entirely lost control of both South Ossetia and another separatist region, Abkhazia.
Russia has recognized the two regions as independent states, a position shared by only three other countries, and has a strong military presence in both.
Medvedev sought to defuse further tensions by rejecting media speculation that South Ossetia could soon be incorporated into Russia, saying "there is no legal basis for that."
He reaffirmed that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili deserves to face an international court over the 2008 war, but acknowledged that "creating such a tribunal is unrealistic."