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The News in Brief

Tuesday, April 26
U.S. Envoy to NATO Sees No Expansion of Alliance in ‘Next Several Years or Even Longer’

There is no way of reaching consensus among NATO members on extending membership to Georgia or Ukraine “any time in the near future,” the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Douglas Lute, said on April 22.

Responding to a question at the Aspen Security Forum in London if Russia now has a veto on NATO expansion, Lute responded: “I think Russia plays an important part in the strategic environment, and the strategic environment will put a brake on NATO expansion.

“If you accept the premises that we’ve heard here [during panel discussion] about Russia’s internal weakness, and perhaps steady decline and so forth, it may not make sense to push further now and maybe accelerate or destabilize that decline, so in practical terms I don’t think there is going to be much additional room over the next several years, or perhaps even longer, for additional NATO expansion,” he said.

“The policy line, of course, is that the open door remains open…in policy terms it won’t go away, we won’t set it aside, but in practical terms I don’t think there is much chance of expansion over the next several years,” the U.S. ambassador said.

Noting that the decision on expansion requires the consensus of all 28 member states, Lute also added: “There’s no way we’re going to get consensus any time in the near future on adding Georgia or Ukraine.”

Abkhazian exposition in Montenegro shuts down on Georgia’s request

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia filed an official complaint with the authorities of Montenegro, as a result of which Montenegrin police shut down an Abkhazian tourism exposition.

The Abkhazian exposition was a part of an international tourism fair called the International Tourism Exchange, Tourism Fair, Equipment for Hotels and Catering (METUBES 2016) in the seaside town of Budva in Montenegro.

According to the president of Abkhazia’s Chamber of Commerce, Gennadi Gagulia, Montenegrin police covered the exposition with tarp following Abkhazia’s refusal to remove it from the fair.

“By the end of the day, police surrounded our pavilion. The government of Montenegro instructed them to immediately close our exposition. They said that Montenegro’s MFA received a complaint from the MFA of Georgia. After we categorically refused to comply, they realised that they couldn’t remove us by force, so they brought a tarp and covered the exposition with it from all sides,” Mr Gagulia told Sputnik Abkhazia.

Abkhazia already participated this year in international tourism fairs in France, Hungary and Russia.

Georgia habitually tries to prevent Abkhazian participation in international political, cultural, and sporting events, where it is presented as an independent state.

Georgia considers Abkhazia a territory occupied by Russia and does not recognise its independence, which has only been acknowledged by four UN member states. All other states consider Abkhazia a de jure part of Georgia.

Up to 150 Georgian soldiers return from Afghanistan

Georgian soldiers are soon to return from Afghanistan, IPN was told by the Ministry of Defense.

According to the agency, 150 servicemen of the 22nd battalion of II Infantry Brigade were met by the Deputies of the Chief of General Staff, Colonel Omar Begoidze and Colonel Nicholas Agladze, as well as the Western Command Commander, Colonel Shalva Dzhabahidze.

"We are implementing a planned rotation. Within this rotation 150 servicemen have just come back to Georgia. The rotation will end by late April. They performed their tasks at Bagram Air Base with a great deal of professionalism. The task was to protect the security of the base, and a new unit has already started performing this task," said the First Deputy Chief of General Staff, Colonel Omar Begoidze.

The 22nd Battalion was replaced by the 52nd Battalion of the V Infantry Brigade. In a few weeks the 22nd Battalion will completely return to the homeland.

Expert says UNM may stage provocations

"It depends on society as to how realistic this plan is. If voters are passive during the elections (it is already visible), a certain percentage may support the United National Movement. If voters do not participate in the elections, their percentage rate will increase. The UNM will not be able to gain the majority of votes in order to completely control Parliament, but, more or less, a competitive political situation may be created. This is one way. In my opinion, the UNM is also thinking about another tool, which Saakashvili heavily relies on. If the UNM gains the same number of votes or less than the Georgian Dream party does, depending on the NDI and IRI's studies, it will say that the elections were rigged and will try to destabilize the situation in Georgia. After that, the election results will be useless. If they fail to arrange destabilization, they will still continue to struggle abroad with the same logic in order for the government to be under duress. The UNM has conceived such a revolutionary way to fight. In this case, Saakashvili's arrival in Georgia, of course, will be more logical, because it will not matter whether or not he is a citizen of Georgia,” political expert Sakvarelidze told PirWeli. Yesterday Mikheil Saakashvili told Rustavi-2 that the UNM would win the elections and after which he would return to Georgia.