NATO and Russia “still have differences”, including over Georgia, but these disagreements should not “paralyze” cooperation in other areas in which the alliance and Moscow have shared interests, NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said.
In an interview with Echo Moskvy radio station in Moscow on December 16, he said that Georgia was “an important” part of discussion between him and the Russian leadership.
Rasmussen said that the alliance insists on “full respect” of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“We urge Russia to withdraw from Georgia… We do not think that Russia has fully implemented the ceasefire plans,” he said.
Asked whether it was possible or not to get NATO and Moscow’s positions closer on Georgia as a result of his talks with the Russian leadership, Rasmussen responded: “I think we have agreed to disagree.”
“We have also agreed that disagreements in some areas should not paralyze us; they should not overshadow that we have shared interests in other areas; so let’s focus on practical cooperation in fighting terrorism, on practical cooperation on Afghanistan, counter-proliferation of nuclear weapons, counter-piracy,” he said.
Asked if NATO was “freezing” Georgia’s issue in its ties with Russia at the expense of cooperation in other areas, Rasmussen responded: “We are not freezing this question.”
“I still think it should be resolved; I still think that Russia should live up to its international obligations and we insist on respect of Georgia’s territorial integrity,” he continued. “But I do believe that there is so much at stake for Russia and NATO that we should not let these disagreements paralyze cooperation” in other areas.
On Georgia he was also asked if Tbilisi was preparing for “a revenge” to regain control over its breakaway regions and Rasmussen responded: “Not at all.”
“And let me put it this way – I do not think that huge Russian Federation should feel threatened by small Georgia. And I would urge Russia to ensure peaceful cooperation with all neighbors,” he added.
Rasmussen again reiterated the NATO Bucharest summit decision and said that Georgia and Ukraine would one day become NATO members when they meet membership criteria.
“Every country has the right to decide for itself its alliance and affiliation,” he added.