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Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Georgia has moved closer to NATO

By Ana Robakidze
Friday, December 6
Foreign Minister of Georgia Maia Panjikidze met her counterparts from NATO member countries in Brussels during the ministerial held on December 3rd-4th.

At the meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission, representatives of NATO member states and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen praised Georgia’s reform efforts and encouraged the new government to continue to strengthen democracy and ensure cooperation between the government and opposition parties. They also noted the success of the NATO-Georgian Commission, created five years ago.

According to the NATO official web-page: “The ministers welcomed Georgia’s continued and patient commitment to peaceful conflict resolution and reaffirmed support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders. They also expressed strong concern about the resumption of activities to erect fences and other obstacles along the administrative border lines within Georgia. The ministers called for their removal, as they affect the lives of people and hamper conflict resolution.”

“Georgia is a unique and highly valued partner for NATO, and there is a lot that the Georgian people can be proud of.” Rasmussen said at a press conference following the commission meeting. He noted the success Georgia has achieved since launching the joint commission with NATO and noted that the country will have to continue with key reforms to achieve membership. The secretary general said that NATO recognizes “Georgia’s achievements in making its democracy stronger, its judiciary more independent, and its defense and security sectors more transparent and more accountable.”

“In the five years since we created the NATO-Georgia Commission, Georgia has moved closer to NATO. And together, we have made Georgia and the wider region a safer place. There is of course still work to be done.” Rasmussen stated, adding that Georgia “naturally belongs” to the Euro-Atlantic family and the new government should take all efforts to achieve its ambitious goal.

Georgia is going to continue its contribution to NATO missions. Panjikdize confirmed in Brussels that Georgia will continue participation in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. The country will send military instructors and doctors in Afghanistan as part of the new NATO mission which will begin after 2014, when the current ISAF mission expires.

Panjikidze also had a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Brussels. The Georgian Foreign Ministry reports that Panjikidze was accompanied by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia to the United States Archil Gegeshidze and Georgia's Representative to NATO Levan Dolidze, whilst the U.S. Secretary of State was accompanied by the Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute, and the former U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Bass.

The parties discussed a wide range of issues concerning bilateral relations, including bilateral co-operation, Georgian-Russian relations and the positive steps Georgia has taken in this regard, as well as the situation in Georgia's occupied territories and the erection of fences by Russian occupation troops. Kerry welcomed Georgia's initialing of the EU Association Agreement and expressed his hope that the agreement will be signed soon.

“The U.S. side expressed the hope that this agreement will soon be signed and that the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area will be put into action, giving a fresh impulse to trade dialogue with the United States. We also discussed the possible pressure that Russia may exert upon Georgia during the period between the initialing and the signing of the agreement. Discussions focused upon 2014 which will be full of important political events.” Panjikdize said after the meeting.

Kerry confirmed to the Georgian foreign minister that NATO’s decision that Georgia will become a member of the alliance still holds. The U.S. secretary of state also praised the recent democratic reforms in the country. Kerry also confirmed that he is going to visit Georgia no later than spring 2014.