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NATO appeals for reforms in Georgia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, December 7
An appeal for the “deepening” of the reforms in Georgia was one of the main messages the North Atlantic alliance sent Tbilisi after the NATO-Georgian Commission session in Brussels on December 3. The session was conducted at Foreign Minister level and summed up Georgia's progress against its Annual National Programme (ANP), a road map for reform agreed with NATO.

“NATO Ministers welcomed the initiation of dialogue regarding electoral and constitutional reforms in Georgia. At the same time, they noted that much work remains to be done to implement reforms, and that the Georgian Government, as well as opposition forces, must demonstrate political will in implementing democratic reforms,“ said the statement of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen published soon after the meeting.

NATO will pay special attention to the conduct of the upcoming local government elections in 2010, stating that fair and transparent elections have “great importance” for the country. “They [the NATO states' Foreign Ministers] encouraged Georgia to deepen reforms regarding media freedom and the rule of law. They welcomed Georgia’s decision to conduct a broad review of its security sector, but noted the need for more effective defence planning and financial and human resource management,” stated Rasmussen.

The Georgian delegation, led by Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze, discussed a variety of issues in Brussels, one of the main topics being the situation in the Georgian conflict regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “Grigol Vashadze provided the Alliance member states with information on the Geneva Talks, cases of human rights violations on the occupied territories and the continual provocations of the occupiers,” said the Georgian Foreign Ministry on Friday. Vashadze also expressed his hope that 2010 will be “more successful and productive for the process of Georgia's integration into NATO,” as well as in terms of the general cooperation between NATO and Georgia.

Georgian-Russian relations were also in the focus of the Ministerial. NATO Ministers reaffirmed their strong support for Georgia’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity as recognised by international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions. ”NATO Ministers reaffirmed their strict policy of non-recognition of the “independence” of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia, and called once again on Russia to reverse its decision in this regard,” noted the NATO Secretary General. This statement provoked an immediate Russian response. Its Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that NATO reaffirming its respect for Georgia’s sovereignty is “not news” for Russia. “These words are repeated all over again just like a spell, it seems that someone doesn’t want to lose his political face,” said Lavrov, speaking to the Russian media on December 4. Lavrov noted that NATO sticks to principles “which are a year and a half old”, without paying attention to the “existing realities in the South Caucasus.”

The Russian Foreign Minister also commented on Mikheil Saakashvili’s address to Georgian troops on Friday, in which he underlined the importance of Georgia’s participation in the Afghan mission together with NATO members' troops. President Saakashvili said that during the continued occupation of Georgia’s two breakaway regions by Russia the Georgian armed forces “should be permanently on high readiness.” “The enemy is constantly considering new provocations and attacks. The Georgian State’s major goal should be the liberation of our occupied territories. All of our actions should be directed towards achieving this goal through peaceful means. But we should also be ready to repel the enemy’s new attacks,” Saakashvili said.

Lavrov stated that the continued training and consequent increase in the fighting potential of the Georgian Army is “a serious problem” for Russia. “We have paid special attention to those risks related to the continued supply of arms to Georgia. We hope that the alliance member states draw the necessary conclusions from last August's events,” Lavrov said at a news conference after the NATO-Russia Council meeting which followed the Ministerial.