President Saakashvili said on March 15 Tbilisi would not sign a treaty on the non-use of force, which breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as Moscow, are insisting on.
“We are told to sign a new agreement on the non-use of our armed forces – Georgia is a peaceful country and we have many times said that we want to settle all the conflicts only peacefully - but with whom should we sign this agreement?” Saakashvili asked. He then recalled several ceasefire agreements signed during the armed conflict in the early 90s in Abkhazia. He said they had been signed by “traitor” Georgian politicians and had led to the withdrawal of Georgian armaments from the conflict area and eventually to the loss of Abkhazia.
“Once we were fed these lies, but they will fail to do it again,” he said. “Today we have more experience.”
Saakashvili, who was speaking at a military base in Gori at a ceremony marking the Day of Georgian Artillery, told soldiers that the loss of Abkhazia was not “your fault;” it was, he said, due to “betrayal by our authorities,” specifically, he said, then Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani, now living in Moscow, who was a Russian “agent.”
In his speech, which was aired live on Georgian TV, Saakashvili also praised the Georgian armed forces and criticized skeptics who, he said, believed the army was weak.
He said Georgia had 33,000 professional servicemen and 100,000 reservists. “We have dozens of state-of-the-art self-propelled artillery guns, which are of NATO standards; the number of our warplanes has doubled and the number of our helicopters ahs increased three-fold; the number of tanks has increased ten-fold,” Saakashvili said.
He also said that the NATO assessment mission which visited Georgia in late January made “a brilliant report” about Georgia’s defense reforms. “Such a report was a surprise even for those [NATO] member countries which are skeptical about Georgia’s NATO membership,” Saakashvili said.
He also noted that “huge pressure is being exerted on some European countries” in order not to extend NATO Membership Action Plan to Georgia at an alliance summit in Bucharest on April 2-4.