- ‘There is more Georgia in NATO and more NATO in Georgia’;
- ‘Joint training center helps to increase NATO presence in Georgia’;
- ‘All the commitments are on track and on time;’
- Secretary General praises Georgia for “remarkable progress” in reforms;
- ‘Govt really committed to taking this reform path forward’;
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is visiting Tbilisi, said on August 27 it’s now early to say what the decision of next year’s NATO summit will be in respect of Georgia’s long-sought for Membership Action Plan (MAP).
But he also said that Georgia already has “the necessary tools to continue to move towards membership,” which are delivering “tangible results.”
“There is more Georgia in NATO and more NATO in Georgia,” he said at a joint news conference with Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili ahead of inauguration ceremony of the NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Center at the Krtsanisi military training facility outside Tbilisi.
This joint training center, he said “will deepen our cooperation even further.”
“It [the center] will help make Georgia and Georgian forces even more capable and more modern. And it will also strengthen cooperation between NATO and partner nations,” he said, adding that it will “contribute to international peace and security.”
He also said that along with other tools and activities, the joint training center contributes to “increasing NATO presence in Georgia.”
Setting up of the Joint Training and Evaluation Center is part of the “substantial package” of cooperation agreed by the NATO leaders at the summit in Wales in September, 2014.
Stoltenberg said that the substantial package is already “delivering tangible results”; he noted in this context joint military exercises held at the Vaziani base outside Tbilisi in July and also said that NATO experts were already “working intensively” with the Georgian Defense Ministry to support the country in defence reforms.
“All the commitments we have made together are on track and on time,” he said. “All these efforts help Georgia to move closer to your aspiration of NATO membership.”
In an apparent response to Russia’s concerns, Georgia’s PM Garibashvili stressed during the press conference that the NATO-Georgia joint training center would “in no way be directed against any of the neighboring countries.”
“It will serve strengthening of the regional security, stability and peace. The center with its content and function will contribute to international security and what is the most important the center will serve to increasing professionalism of our soldiers,” PM Garibashvili said.
“I want to stress once against that this center cannot in any way be perceived as directed any of country,” the PM said.
“Our government continues its pragmatic policy with Russia. We continue dialogue on trade and economic issues with Russia and we are committed to maintain this pragmatic and constructive policy,” he added.
Garibashvili said that “proper preparation of Georgia-related issues in the context of next year’s NATO summit in Warsaw” was also discussed at the meeting with the NATO Secretary General. He did not elaborate, but the Georgian officials, specifically Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli, have said for multiple times previously that Georgia will seek for Membership Action Plan (MAP) from NATO at the Warsaw summit.
At the summit in Bucharest in 2008 NATO leaders decided that Georgia will become a member of the alliance, but Membership Action Plan (MAP) should be the next stage on country’s path towards eventual membership. Georgia has been denied MAP since then.
“This intermediary step [referring to MAP] should be missing after the Warsaw summit,” Defense Minister Khidasheli said last week while visiting Washington.
Asked at the news conference about Georgia’s chances for MAP at the Warsaw summit, the NATO Secretary General responded: “I cannot pre-judge decisions that are going to be taken at the summit.”
“But what I can say is that Georgia already has the necessary tools to make progress towards the membership. We see that you are making progress when it comes to reform path and I welcome that – the reform of your political system, judiciary system; I see that there is more work to do, but I am very inspired and encouraged by progress we have seen and I think that the government is really committed to taking this reform path forward,” Stoltenberg said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Dondua said after a meeting between Georgian Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili and the NATO Secretary General on August 27 that MAP was one of the issues discussed.
“The Secretary General has noted that MAP should not be considered as the only indicator of progress. NATO’s more active presence in Georgia is more important than MAP; more joint trainings are more important, which will eventually lead us to more compatibility with NATO,” Dondua said.
Praising Georgia for “the remarkable progress” on the reform path, the NATO Secretary General also added: “I look forward to continued progress also when it comes to constitutional and electoral reforms.”
He also thanked Georgia for its contribution to NATO mission in Afghanistan, where Georgia is the second largest troop contributor.