NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai, is holding talks with the Georgian leadership in Tbilisi on July 9 to discuss details of closer cooperation NATO intends to offer to Georgia at the Alliance’s summit in Wales in September.
At its summit in Wales, NATO will not offer to Georgia a membership action plan (MAP) – a phase, which as NATO decided at its Bucharest summit in 2008 should be the next step for Georgia on its “direct way to membership”. Instead NATO foreign ministers decided in late June to offer Georgia, as NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen put it, a “substantive package” to help the country “come closer” to NATO.
“I’ve come because I have been assigned by the Secretary General to work with the Georgian government to fill the package that was opened by the foreign ministers meeting,” Appathurai told journalists after meeting with Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze in Tbilisi on July 9.
“I am quite confident that what we will see at the [Wales] summit are decisions that will lead to even more NATO presence in Georgia, that will lead to even more Georgian presence in NATO’s discussions, in NATO’s programs and activities and that will continue to move Georgia forward along the path that was decided in Bucharest,” Appathurai said, referring to 2008 Bucharest summit decision that Georgia will join the Alliance sometime in the future.
“There is still a lot of work to do, but actually I am quite confident that there will be real substance and real progress by the time we get to the summit,” Appathurai added.
Foreign Minister Panjikidze said that in short the package can be described as “more Georgia in NATO and more NATO in Georgia.”
“This package contains very concrete and very practical and important elements, such as increasing our self-defense capabilities, our engagement in strategic dialogues, our participation at a higher level in NATO, etc,” Panjikidze said.
Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, who also met Appathurai on July 9, said: “This package consists of number of elements. With these proposals Georgia will be more protected and secure, and it will be a step forwards for Georgia’s membership in NATO. Everything is being done in order to make Georgia a NATO member state in the nearest future.”
Earlier on July 9, NATO Secretary General’s special representative also met one of the leaders of opposition UNM party, Giga Bokeria.
Asked about pre-trial detention of UNM’s campaign chief for the local elections and former mayor of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava, Appathurai said: “The bottom line for NATO is that the judicial processes need to be independent of any political interference, that the laws need to be respected and, as the [NATO] Secretary General has said for many times, that we need to avoid even perception of political interference or politically motivated prosecutions. I have seen the public statements by observers here, including the U.S. ambassador. But beyond that I think the most important point for us is that there must not be either the reality or the perception of any politically motivated prosecutions. But I can’t comment on any individual cases.”