In response to Russian Foreign Ministry’s warning that deploying NATO “infrastructure” in Georgia would undermine stability in the region, Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania said that the only “huge threat” to the region is Russia and “NATO infrastructure” will be created in Georgia “as agreed” by the alliance members at the Wales summit.
In a press statement on the twenty-ninth round of Geneva talks, held on October 8, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that at the meeting the Russian side “expressed concern in connection to the Georgian media reports about plans to deploy military infrastructure on the territory of Georgia in the interests of NATO.”
“Such actions would create threat to emerging stability in the Transcaucasus region,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The statement does not specify “infrastructure” in question, but reference is apparently made to a purported NATO training center on which Georgian and NATO officials were speaking about as part of the package that was offered to Georgia at the NATO Wales summit in September.
Commenting on Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement, Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania told journalists on October 9 that “the only huge threat to the region is Russian occupying forces in our country”, stationed in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and “ongoing aggression carried out by Russia against Ukraine.”
“NATO infrastructure will be created in Georgia,” Alasania said. “This is an agreement that was reached at the NATO summit [in Wales]. NATO-Georgia package serves this purpose – to open NATO infrastructure in Georgia in order to conduct joint military exercises and by doing so to boost deterrent factor against aggression, which is coming from Russia, and also to increase our defense capabilities. This is already decided and it will only contribute to the stability in our region,” he said.
He also said that Tbilisi has handed over its proposals on implementation of the package to NATO earlier this week and is now waiting for the response from the Alliance, expected within a month.
The Defense Minister said that the plan is to set up a “joint Georgian-NATO training center” which would be available for both Georgian and Alliance member states to provide training to their troops, as well as to servicemen from NATO partner states.
Georgian PM’s special envoy for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, who will be meeting next week in Prague his Russian interlocutor, deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin, who is also chief Russian negotiator in the Geneva talks, said on October 9 that Tbilisi’s cooperation with NATO “poses no threat to the regional security.”
“The regional security first and foremost is damaged by unresolved conflicts,” Abashidze told journalists and added that he would tell this position of Tbilisi to his Russian colleague if the latter raises the issue during their planned meeting in Prague.
Georgian Foreign Minister, Maia Panjikidze, said on October 9 that “not a single action undertaken by Georgia to train its forces and increase its defense capabilities is directed against anyone.”
“On the contrary it is directed towards strengthening stability in the region. There are many other factors which do not contribute to the stability in the region and we are always calling on Russia to address those issues – these are occupied territories in Georgia and presence of Russian troops in those territories,” she said.
Twenty-Ninth Round of Geneva Talks
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that during the twenty-ninth round of Geneva talks, participants “positively noted stability on the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with Georgia, which is becoming a stronger pattern.” It also said that “lowering of tensions and emotional rhetoric from the both sides and trend towards normalization of situation in the border areas” were also noted.
Talks, known as the Geneva International Discussions, were launched after the August 2008 war with the participation of negotiators from Georgia, Russia, and the United States, as well as from Tskhinvali and Sokhumi. Talks, which are co-chaired by representatives from the EU, UN and OSCE, focus mostly on international security arrangements on the ground and discussion of humanitarian issues. Unlike the previous round in June, when representatives from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali walked out of discussions, this time participants were able to complete the session, but no progress on the substance of talks was reported.
Georgian chief negotiator, deputy foreign minister Davit Zalkaliani, said that all the agenda items were discussed. But the Russian Foreign Ministry said that discussion of issues related to refugees “has been postponed”; Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, backed by Moscow, say that they will not discuss the issue as long as Tbilisi pushes annually resolution on return of internally displaced persons at the UN General Assembly.