NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai, said implementation of a substantial package, endorsed by the Alliance at the Wales summit for Georgia, “is going well.”
Appathurai met in Tbilisi on December 4 PM Irakli Garibashvili; Defense Minister Mindia Janelidze; State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Davit Bakradze, as well as parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili and representatives from opposition UNM party.
Speaking at a news conference after meeting the state minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, Appathurai said that the focus of his discussions with the Georgian officials was implementation of package of enhanced cooperation to help the country prepare for NATO membership.
“I can tell you it [implementation of the package] is going well on the Georgian side and on the NATO side,” he said.
The elements of this package include assisting defense capacity building in Georgia through “embedded trainers”, joint exercises and setting up of a joint NATO-Georgia training center in Georgia.
“There will be a lot more Georgia in NATO and lot of NATO in Georgia,” Appathurai said.
“We welcome very much the speed with which Georgia has been working to define this new joint training center,” Appathurai said, adding that NATO defense planning experts are already in Georgia, working closely with the Georgian colleagues on this issue.
He said that what now has to be defined is in essence what kind of training will be provided, what kind of military units and what size of units will be getting training in this center and how it will be integrated into Georgia’s own requirements and its other partnership activities.
Answers to these questions, Appathurai said, will also help Georgia to decide the best location for this center. “I know there are only few options,” he added.
Defense Minister Mindia Janelidze said after meeting the NATO secretary general’s special representative that he hopes the implementation plan of the package will be finally approved at NATO-Georgia Commission session, which is planned in February on the sideline of NATO defense ministerial meeting.
“We will spare no effort to implement this plan, which is aimed at strengthening of our defense and security capabilities,” Janelidze said.
Appathurai said that the Georgian Defense Ministry “is focused very much” on implementation of this package.
Asked about a statement of chairman of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Elmar Brok, that NATO should focus on strengthening its collective defense and that “this is not the time to discuss the membership” of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, Appathurai pointed that Moldova is a neutral country and NATO membership is not an issue there, while Ukrainian leadership makes focus on reforms; in respect of Georgia, he said, 2008 NATO Bucharest summit decision stands, according to which Georgia will join the alliance once it fulfills necessary criteria.
Appathurai said that the package with its “concrete steps” is “explicitly” designed to help Georgia for NATO membership. He said that focus is now on implementing the package, which will also help to implement the Bucharest Summit decision.
“So in that context Mr. Brok is right – there is no point in discussing membership, our point now is to discuss implementation, which will help Georgia prepare for membership,” Appathurai said.
Commenting on newly signed treaty on “alliance and strategic partnership” between Russia and breakaway Abkhazia, Appathurai said that NATO shares Georgian analysis of this so called treaty.
“We do see it as a substantial new step in Russia taking control of this region,” Appathurai said.
Asked if he sees it as an impediment to Georgia’s path towards NATO membership, Appathurai responded: “No.”
“This complication was already there, when even at the most recent summit [in Wales in September] the Allies reconfirmed the Bucharest decision that Georgia will become a NATO member,” Appathurai said.
‘Concerns over Perception of Politically Motivated Prosecutions’
Asked about ex-defense minister Irakli Alasania’s allegations that the arrest of MoD and general staff officials was politically motivated that target him, NATO secretary general’s special representative responded that Georgia should avoid even the perception of politically motivated prosecutions.
“We are concerned about a perception of politically motivated prosecutions,” he said and also noted that he cannot comment on individual cases.
“It is crucial to avoid of course the reality of politically motivated prosecutions and, as an extension of that, a perception of it,” Appathurai said.
“If this perception becomes widespread and deeply engrained in NATO capitals, it can become an obstacle on Georgia’s path towards NATO membership,” he said and added that it’s important for the Georgian government to be as transparent as possible.
Democratic reforms, as well as reforms in the justice system were discussed at a meeting with parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili, Appathurai said.
“The speaker has very clear and I think very constructive ideas on how to ensure national consensus on very important issues like Georgia’s foreign policy orientation but also reforms to the justice system and other internal governmental procedures,” NATO secretary general’s special representative said.
“He [Usupashvili] plays a very important role within the [GD ruling] coalition, but also we think, within the society more broadly in ensuring consensus and bringing parties together,” Appathurai said.