Georgia said Thursday it has accepted a Swiss proposal that could open the way for Russia to join the World Trade Organization.
Russia needs to reach individual agreements with all 153 members of the WTO, and the lack of progress in negotiations with Georgia has been the last significant stumbling block. Georgia lost a brief war with Russia in 2008 over the control of two breakaway regions, leading to a breakdown in diplomatic relations with Moscow.
Georgia said it accepted a Swiss proposal providing guarantees of international supervision of all trade and cargo between Russia and the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"From now on, from the Georgian perspective, the Russian Federation can become a member of the WTO provided that it also agrees to the proposal," the Georgian government said in a statement.
Russia said it needs several days to study the Swiss proposal.
Russia is by far the largest economy still outside the international trade body despite 18 years of talks. Both The European Union and the United States have voiced hope that Moscow could join the WTO by the year's end.
Georgia demanded in the past that Moscow allows Georgian customs officials to operate in two breakaway provinces. Russia, which recognized the two regions as independent states and strengthened its military presence there, flatly rejected the Georgian push.
The Swiss compromise proposal tries to solve the impasse by offering to deploy international monitors at border checkpoints in the two separatist provinces.
"We accepted the Swiss offer and hope that Russia will also approve it," Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergo Kapanadze said in a telephone interview from Geneva.
Russia's top WTO negotiator, Maxim Medvedkov, said it would take a few days to analyze the Swiss offer. "We need several days to take a stance and we would be able to make a response next week," he said in remarks carried by the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this report from Moscow.