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Rasmussen’s upcoming visit assessed as a “big step” towards NATO

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, September 30
The expectations have been high in Tbilisi ahead of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s visit to Georgia on October 1. The ruling party officials and government authorities have assessed the upcoming visit as a “step forward” towards Georgia’s NATO integration and an indication of the fact that the relations between the Alliance and Georgia “have not changed”.

Rasmussen’s visit is a “direct message” that NATO continues cooperation with Georgia in line with the Bucharest Summit commitments and supports Georgia’s integration in the Alliance, Georgian Parliament Speaker, Davit Bakradze said. “Georgia will eventually become a NATO member: it is a matter of time and modalities,” he noted “I think the main message [of Rasmussen’s upcoming visit] is that there have been no changes in NATO-Georgia relations and moreover, there are no deteriorations in this respect,” Bakradze added.

Georgia’s European and Euro Atlantic Integration Minister, Giorgi Baramidze, also reiterated that the Bucharest Summit decision, that Georgia will eventually become a NATO member, remains “firm and unchanged.” He stressed that NATO Secretary General’s visit to Georgia ahead of NATO Lisbon Summit is especially important. “At the summit in Lisbon the issues like NATO’s new strategy and the regional security declaration will be discussed,” he noted “the fact that NATO Secretary General will open NATO Liaison office in Tbilisi has practical and symbolic meaning – it will be like NATO embassy in our country, so the communication and relations will be much easier. NATO representatives will be able to study the ongoing reforms carried out in Georgia for its NATO membership, in details,” the State Minister added.

One of the leaders of non-parliamentary opposition from Our Georgia-Free Democrats Party, Georgia’s former UN ambassador, Irakli Alasania also assessed Rasmussen’s upcoming visit as “important.” According to Alasania, the visit is an indication of the Alliance’s support towards the country. “Regardless the date of Georgia’s NATO integration, it is crucial and important that NATO-Georgian relations become tighter,” the opposition politician said “Georgia’s NATO integration is a distant prospect, however it does not mean that we should halt relations with the Alliance,” he added.

The visit of the NATO Secretary General is a demonstration of support towards Georgia, some analysts in Tbilisi suggest. Political Analyst, Georgia’s former Ambassador to Russia, Zurab Abashidze said Georgia’s neighbouring countries, including Russia will be watching Rasmussen’s visit to Georgia “with interest.” “Although it is not the first case of NATO high rank officials visiting Tbilisi, each of these visits sparks big interest in the neighbouring countries, especially in Russia. There is no doubt about this,” Abashidze told The Messenger. There are a number of issues to be discussed at the meetings in Tbilisi, the analyst noted. “The sides will likely talk about NATO-Georgia cooperation, Georgian-Russian relations and the situation in Georgia in general,” Abashidze said.

As part of the visit to Georgia, Anders Fogh Rasmussen will meet the Georgian President, the Parliament Speaker, the Foreign Minister, the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister. NATO Secretary General will also meet the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mamedyarov on October 1 in Tbilisi, according to RIA Novosti news agency.