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NATO ambassadors visit Georgia

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, September 14
Ambassadors from NATO member states arrived in Georgia on September 13th. They have already met with Public Defender Giorgi Tughushi and representatives of Georgian NGO's.

Georgian authorities have already described the visit of the ambassadors as another demonstration of support for Georgia amid the threats coming from Russia. According to Georgian officials the visit is very important especially when Russia is preparing for military exercises along its border with Georgia.

According to the public defender the topics discussed at the meeting with NATO ambassadors were the situation concerning human rights in Georgia, election-related issues and media problems.

“I have informed them about various issues, especially regarding the ban of Maestro TV satellite antennas. They were interested in media problems during the election campaign period and how the elections will be held in prisons,” Tughushi stated.

He has also emphasized that the ambassadors expressed interest in the last report of the public defender and those problems which were cited in the report.

Tughushi stated that it was important for the NATO ambassadors to get information from the Public Defender.

Practically the same issues were mentioned by Georgian NGOs after meeting with the ambassadors. According to the chairperson of Transparency International Georgia, Eka Gigauri, the ambassadors have expressed a positive attitude concerning the continuation of the must-carry policy, in which Georgian cable company providers must broadcast all locally licensed television channels.

According to the chair of the Young Lawyers’ Association, Tamar Chugoshvili, NGO representatives discussed the imbalanced political environment during the election campaign with the ambassadors.

“We have informed the ambassadors that a balance is not being kept between the political parties in Georgia currently,” Chugoshvili stated.

While concerns over the perceived threat from Russia were not discussed during the meetings, the issue was mentioned by NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his recent interview with Euronews.

According to Rasmussen NATO is not opposed to Russian military exercises but the organization requests transparency as a confidence building measure and wishes to be informed about the purpose of the exercise, where it will take place and how it will be conducted.

However the Secretary General claims that NATO has not received any formal information from Russia,“which we strongly regret.”

As to the question of how far NATO will encroach on what Moscow considers its sphere of interest NATO Secretary General responded that "We stick to a very fundamental principle to which all nations in the Euro-Atlantic area signed up in 1999 in an OSCE charter. That fundamental principle is that each individual nation has a right to decide its alliance affiliation itself. I hope Russia also sticks to that. So it’s for Georgia to decide. And Georgia has declared that it is a Georgian aspiration [to join NATO]. And in 2008 NATO decided at a summit in Bucharest that Georgia will become a member of NATO, of course provided that Georgia fulfills the necessary criteria." Rasmussen stated.

Foreign diplomats will also hold meetings with the Foreign Minister of Georgia, the Parliamentary Chairman and the State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration.

It has been rumored that NATO ambassadors will also meet with representatives of the opposition parties.