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Georgia’s “long and winding” road to NATO

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, February 16
Georgia has a “long and winding” road to travel before becoming a NATO member, James Appathurai, NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia said. He was speaking live on Ekho Moskvy radio on Monday. When asked by one of the listeners what is an approximate date of Georgia’s joining the Alliance, Appathurai responded that by naming a specific date he would violate the principles of NATO enlargement.

The Alliance representative said there are certain requirements and standards which the country has to meet before entering NATO. “We have political standards, military rules and the issues of human rights and freedoms,” Appathurai was quoted as saying. “NATO allies have decided that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of the Alliance when they meet these requirements and if they want to do so,” he noted, adding that Ukraine has decided that it does not want to become a NATO member. “We 100 percent respect this decision,” Appathurai said, adding “Georgia aspires to become a NATO member state and we support this. However, frankly speaking, there is a long and winding way ahead.”

Speaking about the needed reforms, Appathurai pointed out that Georgia has presented NATO with its annual reform plan, including enhancement of democratic control over the military and the police, improvement in managing the contingencies through government ministries and the fight against corruption. NATO Secretary General’s special representative said Georgia has shown success in terms of fighting corruption, adding “there is a lot to do” and that NATO will continue assisting Georgia in this respect.

Responding to the question of another listener about “why NATO continues to arm Georgia”, Appathurai said “NATO does not arm anyone.” He said that the organisation does not sell weapons but he pointed out that NATO allies have the right to sell arms to “whoever they want” provided the sales are compatible with international law. Appathurai commented that no embargo has been imposed on arms sales to Georgia and that he has no information regarding any weapons being supplied to Tbilisi “but if it is happening, it is legal.”

To the question “why NATO refused” to hear the Tagliavini report on the August 2008 war, Appathurai responded that the report makes certain conclusions on what caused the conflict. He said, “I have read this report and of course, the NATO Secretary General has also read it. The report says many things and I cannot say that it comes down clearly one way or another.” He added that the most important problem in terms of Georgia’s two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is not who started the conflict but the fact that Russia has recognised the two regions as independent republics. Appathurai pointed out that none of the NATO allies “agree with this” and said, “We firmly believe that it undermines Georgia’s territorial integrity,” adding that “it is going to be and already is a fundamental difference of view between NATO allies and Russia.”