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The US will speed up Georgia’s NATO integration

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, October 21
The US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Alexander Vershbow has promised to help the Georgian Army meet NATO standards while paying a working visit to Georgia.

Speaking on the last day of his visit on October 20, Vershbow noted that the US is working on a “reform of the defence sphere [of Georgia] to bring it closer to NATO standards that will assist [Georgia’s] NATO membership.” He added at a press conference in Tbilisi that reform of the Georgian Army is a long-term process. Vershbow also denied rumours of plans to deploy American military bases on Georgian territory. “We don’t consider such a possibility,” he said

"We are working together with our Georgian friends on a long-term programme of assistance for Georgia's efforts to carry out its defence reforms and defence modernisation and ultimately improve its candidacy as a prospective member of NATO," he said. “Georgia is an important player in the region and it has a big responsibility,” stated Vershbow, noting that Georgia faces numerous security challenges that demand the “continuation of democratic reforms” and the establishment of a strong economy.

Speaking on the situation in Georgian-Russian relations Vershbow underlined that Russia has not completely fulfilled the terms of the August 2008 conflict’s ceasefire agreement and that the US authorities are trying to find a way to provide international monitors with the possibility of observing the situation in the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “The USA sticks to its strong position on the issues of the sovereignty, territorial integrity protection and economic development of Georgia”, he stated, explaining that Washington wants to see Tbilisi as a strong and independent partner, able to defend itself.

Speaking at the same briefing Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria underlined that “The US is a strategic partner of Georgia” and Tbilisi is ready to discuss any topics important for Washington. “The determination of defence system plans is very important for Georgia and we are glad to accept the assistance of our American colleagues on this issue,” stated Bokeria.

Bokeria denied that there had been negotiations between the authorities of Georgia and the USA concerning the possible transfer of some detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to Georgia after the prison closes. This possibility had been suggested in late September by the Georgian media while reporting on negotiations held between Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze and former US Assistant Secretary of State on European and Eurasian Issues Daniel Fried, who is now responsible for managing the closure of the prison. “The Guantanamo question is not currently on the agenda of the talks between Georgia and the USA,” stated Bokeria.

The US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security had arrived in Tbilisi on October 19. The main aim of his visit was reportedly the organisation of the “next meeting of the working group established as part of the US-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership.” Vershbow met President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, Secretary of the National Security Council Eka Tkeshelashvili and Defence Minister Bacho Akhalaia.