Georgia has entered into an Intensified Dialogue with NATO regarding Georgia’s aspirations to alliance membership, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on September 21.
Speaking at a news conference after an informal meeting of Foreign Ministers from NATO member states in New York, Scheffer noted that an Intensified Dialogue means that the alliance and Georgia “will work very close together and will have more intensified dialogue between one and the other.”
“You know, and [the NATO Foreign] Ministers reconfirmed, that the North Atlantic Council took a decision to grant Intensified Dialogue for Georgia,” Scheffer said.
The NATO Secretary General also noted that certain “responsibilities come with the Intensified Dialogue.” He has stated twice that peaceful resolution of the conflicts is of crucial importance in this regard.
“You know that as far as Georgia is concerned, the alliance fully respects Georgia’s territorial integrity. It is of a great importance that a peaceful solution can be found in conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Scheffer said.
“In other words, Intensified Dialogue also means for the one and for the other intensified scrutiny and I reaffirm my plea that it is important that a peaceful solution will be found,” he added.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is currently in New York for the UN General Assembly Session, said that the NATO decision means “making NATO integration an irreversible process.”
“This is a very important breakthrough towards huge progress. Now Georgia needs, as never before, unity and stability,” Saakashvili told reporters.
Intensified Dialogue (ID) with NATO is viewed as a precursor to being invited to enter the alliance Membership Action Plan (MAP), while the latter should eventually lead to NATO membership. Officials say that the MAP should be built on the experiences gained during the intensified dialogue between the alliance and the aspirant state.
But unlike its precursor – the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), which Georgia started to implement in 2004 – the Intensified Dialogue does not have a specific timeframe.
Speaking at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on September 18, Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili made it clear that Georgia “is on a point of no return” towards NATO.
“Euro-Atlantic aspirations are not part of the political game; this is a political belief of the Georgian people,” he said.
Bezhuashvili also noted that this very belief is the reason why Russia “punishes” Georgia with economic embargos and unrest in the secessionist regions.
But he added that Georgia’s NATO aspiration “is not a threat to our neighbors.”
“We [are considering] NATO membership to frame our democratic and reform agenda. This is a reason why we go to NATO and this is what we are telling those who perceive Georgia’s way to NATO as a non-friendly, or adversarial, act for [our] neighbors,” Bezhuashvili said.
He also said that Intensified Dialogue “is the first membership instrument that the alliance offers to candidate countries.”