- Saakashvili: NATO remains a priority for Georgia
During his visit in Tbilisi on October 1, NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said he expected upcoming summit of NATO leaders in Lisbon would reiterate the decision of the 2008 Bucharest summit that Georgia will one day become member of the alliance once Georgian fulfills necessary criteria.
While reiterating NATO’s support to non-recognition policy of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and calling on Russia to implement its commitments under the August 12, 2008 six-point cease-fire agreement, Rasmussen also said that it was his “clear intention” to improve ties between Moscow and NATO, “leading, hopefully, to true strategic partnership”.
“I do believe that’s in our mutual interests and it is also in the interests of Georgia,” Rasmussen said while speaking at a joint news conference with President Saakashvili just before departure from Tbilisi.
“If we succeed in developing true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia, then it will also improve Georgia’s security situation.”
Saakashvili, who described the Secretary General’s visit as “extremely important”, said “of course” NATO membership “stays a priority for the Georgian government.”
“There is one thing Georgia can never compromise on – that’s the issue of freedom and for us and right now NATO stands for the idea of freedom and that’s why it has strong support of the Georgian nation and in overall of political spectrum in Georgia,” Saakashvili said.
He said that there were number of other issues where Georgia was “flexible” and “very open”, including in respect of engagement with Russia.
During the press conference, the NATO Secretary General expressed condolences over death of four Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan on September 30 and said: “Their sacrifice will not be in vain.”
We are making progress in Afghanistan and I can assure that we will stay as long as it takes to finish our job to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists,” Rasmussen said.
“I can assure you that NATO also stands firm in our commitment to Georgia,” he added.
Saakashvili said that Georgia would remain committed member of NATO-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.
“You should count on our support and we count on your further political support to our territorial integrity, our independence and to future development of my country,” Saakashvili told the NATO Secretary General.