Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said that his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama’s remarks on NATO were not something he was glad to hear.
“I would not say it was the statement I was looking forward to and I wanted to hear,” Margvelashvili said in an interview with Rustavi 2 TV on March 28 while commenting on Obama’s remarks when he said that neither Georgia nor Ukraine are on the path of NATO membership.
Margvelashvili, however, also stressed it was never expected that Georgia would have joined NATO at the summit in Wales in September, 2014.
“We continue our efforts… to seek our security within the Euro-Atlantic space, but we had no expectation that we would have joined the alliance during the summit in Wales,” Margvelashvili said. “Of course it was not a statement that caused much of our delight… but this statement does not change our plans at all, we are moving on the same trajectory.”
U.S. chargé d'affaires in Tbilisi, Bridget Brink, said, when asked on March 28 about Obama’s remarks, that Washington “supports Georgia's integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, including NATO and the reforms that are needed to achieve that.”
“The [U.S.] President's comments reflect the fact that Georgia at this moment is asking for Membership Action Plan, not membership. That question will be discussed by the alliance in the run up to the summit later this year in the UK in the context of alliance's policy of an open door,” the U.S. diplomat said.
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Membership Action Plan (MAP), which the Georgian authorities want to get at the NATO summit in September, is a precursor to an eventual membership in the alliance.
During his visit to Washington last month PM Garibashvili said NATO should grant MAP to Georgia at the upcoming summit as a reward for the progress made by the country. Defense Minister Irakli Alasania discussed the issue with his counterparts from Italy, Spain and Slovakia when he met them in a course of last two weeks, according to the Georgian Ministry of Defense.
At the 2008 Bucharest summit NATO refused to grant MAP to Georgia, but pledged Georgia will become NATO member sometime in the future.
Georgia currently implements its NATO-related reforms in frames of the Annual National Programme – a mechanism through which reform targets are set by the Georgian government and then reviewed by the alliance annually.
According to Georgian and European officials the Annual National Programme in substance is actually the same MAP. Parliament speaker, Davit Usupashvili, said in January that MAP has become in Georgia “much more than it really is”; he said it is a “symbol” for answering a question whether NATO is determined or to keep its promise that Georgia will join the alliance.
Whether hyped or not, the issue of MAP has practical aspect, because the 2008 NATO Bucharest summit decision explicitly says that MAP should be the next step for Georgia on its “direct way to membership”; references to the need of going through MAP phase before joining the alliance are also made in NATO’s subsequent decisions in respect of Georgia.
A lawmaker from the GD parliamentary majority group, Tina Khidasheli, said on March 28 that she expects NATO to give a clear response to Russia's moves in Ukraine at the September summit.
“One of the options to give this response to Russia is to grant MAP to Georgia,” she said, adding that another option might be reiterating that Georgia will join NATO but without making reference to the need of going through MAP phase.
After meeting with Georgian PM Garibashvili in Washington on February 26 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated U.S. support to NATO Bucharest summit decision and said: “The United States will work to make sure that Georgia’s progress is acknowledged by all members at this year’s NATO summit.”