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NATO talk heats up as Chicago summit gets underway

By Ernest Petrosyan
Tuesday, May 22
NATO leaders welcomed Georgia’s reform progress in its pursuit of its Euro-Atlantic aspirations, meanwhile reiterating the decision it made at the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest when it promised to admit Georgia one day.

At the Chicago summit alliance member states adopted a declaration which maintained the wording of 2010 Lisbon summit final document, saying: “At the 2008 Bucharest Summit we agreed that Georgia will become a member of NATO and we reaffirm all elements of that decision, as well as subsequent decisions.”

The Chicago summit declaration reads that the NATO-Georgia Commission, as well as Georgia’s Annual National Programme (ANP), plays a central role in supervising the process set in motion at the Bucharest Summit.

The ANP was offered to Georgia in 2009 at the Strasbourg summit. It envisaged an alternative perspective of membership, by bypassing the membership action plan (MAP). According to the 2009 summit declaration, it would help Georgia in advancing its reforms, “without prejudice to further decisions which must be taken about MAP.” MAP is a prerequisite stage that acts as the bridge to final membership status.

The document noted Georgia’s progress in term of reforms and cooperation. “We welcome the progress Georgia has undergone since the Bucharest Summit to meet its Euro-Atlantic aspirations through its reforms, the implementation of its Annual National Programme, and active political engagement with the Alliance in the NATO-Georgia Commission. In that context, we have agreed to enhance Georgia’s connectivity with the alliance, by further strengthening our political dialogue, practical cooperation, and interoperability with Georgia,” the declaration reads.

The declaration hailed Georgian’s ongoing implementation of the ongoing reforms, including democratic, electoral, and judicial reforms, as well as security and defence reforms.

Fair, free and inclusive elections, as previously announced by NATO high-level officials, remain in the foreground. “We stress the importance of conducting free, fair, and inclusive elections in 2012 and 2013."

The alliance leaders also appreciated Georgia’s “significant contribution, “in particular as the second largest non-NATO troop contributing nation to ISAF, to Euro-Atlantic security.

The document reiterates NATO support to Georgia’s territorial integrity, welcoming Tbilisi’s non-use of force pledge and “full compliance” with the EU-mediated 2008 ceasefire agreement and “other unilateral measures to build confidence."

“We continue to call on Russia to reverse its recognition of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia as independent states. We encourage all participants in the Geneva talks to play a constructive role, as well as to continue working closely with the OSCE, the UN, and the EU to pursue peaceful conflict resolution in the internationally-recognized territory of Georgia,” a statement referring to Georgia concludes.

The part of the declaration referring to the “important progress” in NATO-Russia cooperation, also reads that the alliance continues “to be concerned by the build-up of Russia’s military presence on Georgia’s territory” and continues “to call on Russia to ensure free access for humanitarian assistance and international observers” into the breakaway regions.

The declaration separately makes note of a meeting between NATO foreign Ministers with their counterparts from Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia – all NATO- aspirant countries. The meeting will be held on May 21, and within the framework of the Chicago summit, will take stock of these countries “individual progress, plans for future cooperation, and exchange views with our partners.

Prior to the NATO session, President Saakashvili said on May 20 that putting Georgia in the context of three Balkan NATO aspirant countries was one of the major positive elements that Tbilisi was getting from this year’s NATO summit.