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Georgia rounds up support for NATO bid as Saakashvili rounds off Washington trip

By Messenger Staff
Friday, March 21
The US secretary of state reiterated her government’s support for Georgia’s NATO bid yesterday, the same day ten NATO members issued a joint letter calling for Georgia to be given a Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the upcoming Bucharest summit.

President Mikheil Saakashvili met US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice yesterday in Washington as part of his US trip to shore up support for Georgia receiving a MAP, the next stage of integration into the Alliance, at the April 2–4 summit in Romania.

“We are very glad that we have heard from Ms. Rice an open and clear support to the process of Georgia’s integration into NATO,” Foreign Minister Davit Bakradze, who is accompanying Saakashvili on his US trip, told reporters.

The same day Canada and nine Eastern European states, in a letter addressed to NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, called on other NATO members to give Georgia and Ukraine MAP status at the upcoming summit.

US President George W. Bush made similar remarks after meeting Saakashvili the previous day, when he said that both Georgia and NATO would benefit if Tbilisi is invited to join the alliance, adding, “That’s a message that I will be taking to Bucharest soon.”

However, Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Norway and Spain are all against Georgia receiving a MAP, given the impact it may have on NATO-Russian relations, according to the Financial Times.

Earlier this week Secretary of State Rice met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow to discuss US-Russian relations.

When she met Saakashvili yesterday, Rice said she shared Georgia’s concern about Russia’s recent decision to back out of a Commonwealth of Independent States treaty imposing sanctions on the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

The Russian move, taken in the wake of Kosovo’s declaration of independence last month, prompted strong criticism from both Tbilisi and abroad.

Saakashvili and Bakradze are due back in Tbilisi today.