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NATO will continue to cooperate with Georgia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, September 24
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has met NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during his visit to New York to attend the 64th session of the UN General Assembly. The main topics they discussed were the “internal situation in Georgia,” and Georgia’s chances of joining the bloc.

After the meeting Rasmussen confirmed that NATO’s position on cooperation with Georgia is unchanged. “I affirmed that the decision taken at Bucharest in 2008 is still in force. Georgia and Ukraine will become NATO members if they satisfy the very essential criteria,” Rasmussen told reporters.

This was President Saakashvili’s first meeting with Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his capacity as NATO Secretary General. Rasmussen “reiterated NATO's commitment to Georgia's territorial integrity, but also noted that all parties should refrain from violence and from responding to provocation,” the NATO press service stated. The meeting was also attended by Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze, Georgian Ambassador to NATO Grigol Mgaloblishvili and Secretary of the Georgian Security Council Eka Tkeshelashvili.

“We had a very constructive meeting and agreed that cooperation between Georgia and NATO should intensify. We are already cooperating within the NATO-Georgia Commission and I hope to see more progress in this respect during my Presidency,” Rasmussen concluded. “Our goal is the maximal utilisation of all the mechanisms which will assist in the fulfilling of the Bucharest summit decisions. It’s very important to satisfy all the criteria of NATO membership,” stated Grigol Mgaloblishvili.

President Saakashvili himself refrained from comment after the meeting, however Georgian officials in Tbilisi hailed Rasmussen’s statements. “Our territorial problems are important for NATO and they are going to assist us in resolving them, that’s what Rasmussen’s statement meant. We all remember his position during the August 2008 conflict, which seems to remain in force,” stated Georgian MP Shota Malashkhia, who Chairs the Georgian Parliament’s Committee on the Restoration of Territorial Integrity, speaking to journalists in Tbilisi on September 23. “The statement reaffirming the announcement that Georgia will become a NATO member indicates that Georgia has the support of the alliance in this respect, however we still need to conduct a lot of reforms to gain the right to enter NATO,” stated Paata Davitaia, Vice Speaker of the Georgian Parliament speaking to The Messenger on Wednesday.

The meeting with the NATO General Secretary was preceded by negotiations between Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze and Daniel Fried, the U.S. Department of State’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Bay Camp Issues. The question of the future of the Guantanamo detainees, who will be transferred to another location in the nearest future, was discussed at the meeting. Daniel Fried said that it has not been finally decided that Georgia will be a location for some of transferred Guantanamo prisoners but the United States Government “seriously relies on Georgia as a friend country” on this issue.