|Scheffer: "there is no doubt that Russia has |
to fulfill fully its commitment" and pull out
its military bases from Georgia.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who paid a one-day visit to Georgia on November 4 as a part of his trip through the South Caucasus, made it clear that "Georgia matters for the NATO" and recommended that the Georgian authorities get working on the implementing of Georgia’s Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), which was endorsed by the North Atlantic Alliance in late October.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer met with President Mikhail Saakashvili, Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili, Defense Minister Giorgi Baramidze, Ambassadors of the NATO member states accredited in Georgia as well as representatives from non-governmental organizations in the country.
At a joint new conference with President Saakashvili, the NATO Secretary General said that endorsement of Georgia’s IPAP marked "a very important moment in the relationship between Georgia and NATO."
"As I have discussed it with the President it will be now a question of doing homework [by the Georgian authorities]. And where NATO can assist Georgia in this respect, NATO will assist Georgia," said Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
President Saakashvili said that Georgia has become the first country whose IPAP has been approved by NATO. "This was recognition by the NATO of those achievements which Georgia has made in respect of reform and development in recent months," Mikheil Saakashvili said.
Saakashvili also said that Georgia is "getting close to NATO." "But do not ask [me] when we will become the NATO members, for example in one year, two or three. You won’t get my answer on this question. But it will happen much sooner than many might suppose. And when it happens I might still be in this office" Mikheil Saakashvili said, referring to his presidential term, which expires at the end of 2009.
The NATO Secretary General has also refrained from speaking about dates. "I am not going to give the dates, because the dates will deviate our attention from what we should do now - make IPAP into a success and NATO will assist and we will help to make it work," Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said.
"I am a realist and I am an optimist. I am realist because I know that Georgia’s NATO membership will be a difficult, long and winding road. But I am optimistic as well, because I see an enormous drive of the Georgian government and the Georgian people to fulfill the ambitions Georgia has vis-a-vis to Euro-Atlantic integration," he added.
The North Atlantic Council, which is the decision-making body of NATO, approved Georgia’s Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) on October 29.
"The IPAP deals with implementing defense, political and economic reforms and it also concerns human rights in the country. It is a two-year program and at the end of each year there will be an assessment conference to find out if there are any flaws or indications of progress," Gela Bezhuashvili, the Secretary of the Georgian National Security Council, told Civil Georgia on November 4.
During a news conference Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also reiterated NATO’s support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and called for a peaceful solution to the Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflicts.
President Saakashvili also said that Tbilisi is "ready for a compromise. But not at the expense of Georgia’s territorial integrity."
"No one should expect that it will be possible to change our fundamental foreign policy course by mounting pressure on us. But I also want to say that good relations with Russia is also a part of our fundamental foreign policy course," Mikheil Saakashvili added.
The NATO Secretary General has also called on Russia to follow its commitment to pull out its remaining military bases from Georgia, undertaken during an OSCE Istanbul Summit in 1999.
"There is no doubt that Russia has to fulfill fully its commitments Russia has entered in 1999 in Istanbul [OSCE Summit]. NATO has good a relationship with the Russian Federation and Russia is very well informed about the NATO’s position I have just stated… let’s say that fundamental opinion can not be any other than Russia has to fulfill the Istanbul commitments fully," the NATO Secretary General said.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also said that NATO is not competing with any of the countries in the region.
"Let me make it very clear that I have not come here and the NATO has not come here to compete with any other country or to compete with any other organization. I’ve come here because the NATO has an open door for any nation, including Georgia, who wants to share and defend those same values, which have always been in the core of the NATO," Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also said that his trip to the South Caucasus countries is a part the implementation of decisions of the NATO Istanbul Summit, which was held this June. The governments from NATO states decided at the summit to make a focus on the Caucasus and Central Asia.
To implement this decision, Robert Simmons, a special representative for these two regions, has been appointed. Simmons is also NATO's Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Security Cooperation and Partnership.
In addition, two NATO liaison officers, who will be in close cooperation with the NATO’s special envoy, will be permanently stationed in each of the two regions. Robert Simmons said in September that the NATO liaison officer in the Caucasus will be stationed in Tbilisi and will work closely with the Georgian Defense Ministry.
"I am now in Georgia - focusing on IPAP, focusing on reforms. I’ll go to Armenia and Azerbaijan as well to see where they are in relationship with NATO, and whether they want to be in a relationship with NATO. Do not forget every sovereign country is fully sovereign in deciding itself where it wants to go vis-a-vis NATO. Some countries are more ambitious than others. I want to focus on this region, like two weeks ago I was in Central Asia. Because these regions matter, they are of strategic importance. So Georgia matters for NATO," Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said.