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NATO envoy reiterates Bucharest commitment, hails Tbilisi for “clear progress”

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, April 8
NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai is paying a two-day official visit to Georgia on April 7-8. At the meetings with high-rank Georgian officials, he reiterated the Alliance’s support towards Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and NATO’s commitment about the decision made at Bucharest Summit.

Speaking at a joint press conference with the Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, Appathurai said Georgia will become a NATO member when it satisfies all requirements of the Alliance. He hailed Tbilisi for the “progress” made in terms of meeting those requirements. Appathurai noted that Georgia-NATO relations are developing “in right direction”, hailing the Constitutional reforms carried out in the country. However, NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative pointed out that “there is more to do” in terms of democracy and defence system.

Appathurai said at the press conference that NATO “will not compromise” when it comes to Georgia’s territorial integrity and stressed that “there will be no recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent by the NATO allies.” He expressed the Alliance’s gratitude towards Georgia for its participation in ISAF mission in Afghanistan, saying that Georgia lost 7 servicemen and about 40 soldiers were injured in the peacekeeping mission.

NATO official touched upon the issue of Georgian-Russian relations as well. He said the Alliance cannot advice either Russia or Georgia what kind of relations the two countries should have with their neighbours, adding however that NATO supports good neighbourly relations between Russia and Georgia. When meeting with the Georgian students at Tbilisi State University NATO envoy noted that strengthening the Alliance’s relations with Russia does not mean weakening relations with Georgia, noting that deepening relations with Russia is important for European security.

Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze stated that the “principle that Georgia will eventually join NATO is becoming stronger.” He noted that “no third country has a right to veto Georgia’s NATO membership.” “It is pleasant and necessary that James Appathurai started his first visit to the South Caucasus in his capacity as a NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative by visiting Georgia,” the Minister said.

Later James Appathurai met Georgian State Minister for European and Euro Atlantic Integration, Giorgi Baramidze. The Minister said after the meeting that the sides discussed the issues related to NATO-Georgia cooperation in terms of carrying out reforms in the country. “We have much more now than we had expected from Bucharest Summit. We have the first National Programme and NATO-Georgia commission. Georgia has everything to carry on democratic reforms, and the reforms in defence and security spheres, which have been so far evaluated as positive by NATO,” Baramidze noted, adding that Georgia technically needs 2-3 years to make Georgia’s institutions compatible with NATO standards. “Afterwards, NATO will have to make its final decision when it will invite Georgia to the Alliance,” the Georgian Minister stated.

Later on Thursday James Appathurai met the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. According to the President’s administration, at the meeting with Saakashvili the NATO envoy reiterated the Alliance’s position on supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The sides discussed the activities to be carried out in frames of NATO-Georgia cooperation and stressed the importance of Georgia’s participation in Afghan ISAF mission, President Saakashvili’s administration reported. At the meeting with President Saakashvili, Appathurai confirmed that Bucharest Summit decision on Georgia’s NATO integration “remains in force.”

Appathurai held a meeting with the representatives of the Opposition Eight as well. The leaders of the opposition parties said after the meeting that the situation in terms of electoral reform in Georgia and the prospects of “successful finalization” of negotiations between the government and the opposition will be “one of the main issues” discussed at the upcoming Berlin Summit. According to the opposition representatives, it was “clearly stressed” at the meeting that the negotiations on improving the election environment is a “main indicator” of the “what the prospects of holding fair elections in Georgia are.” The future of NATO-Georgia relations is “directly linked” with the development of the democracy in the country, which will be determined “with the quality of the future elections,” the opposition leaders stated after the meeting with the NATO envoy.