Merkel pledges NATO membership for Georgia

August 18th, 2008 - 2:20 pm ICT by IANS  

RIA Novosti
Tbilisi/Berlin, Aug 18 (RIA Novosti) Georgia can still join NATO, despite a recent conflict with Russia over the breakaway Caucasian province of South Ossetia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said. Support for Georgia’s bid to join NATO was laid out in documents produced at the military alliance’s summit in Bucharest in April, Merkel, who visited Tbilisi for talks with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili Sunday, said.

“They contain, which is rather unusual, a very firm pledge that both Ukraine and Georgia will become NATO members,” Merkel said. “The first review of the situation will take place in December.”

NATO declined at the Bucharest summit to grant both Georgia and Ukraine a membership action plan (MAP) which would have set the two former Soviet republics on the road to membership of the 26-nation military alliance.

Germany and France expressed concern that doing so would unnecessarily antagonise Russia.

Georgia’s “frozen” conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Georgian breakaway republic, were also cited. Ukraine and Georgia had received strong US backing for their bids.

Commenting on the recent conflict in Georgia, Merkel said it was a priority for Russian troops to pull out from the South Caucasus state as soon as possible.

“I expect the quick withdrawal of Russian troops, which, according to information at my disposal, has not so far been conducted the way we expected,” Merkel said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday during a telephone conversation with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy that Russian troops would start their pullout from Georgia Monday.

Medvedev signed Saturday a French-brokered plan on resolving the conflict in Georgia.

At a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi with Medvedev Friday, Merkel called Russia’s reaction “disproportionate.” Her words echoed criticism of Moscow’s response to the Georgian attack by US President George W. Bush.

NATO foreign ministers will consider rendering military reconstruction aid to Georgia at a meeting Tuesday, the German chancellor said. She also promised Saakashvili assistance in restoring Georgian infrastructure.

NATO Aug 14 refused to rule out the prospect of Georgia joining the military alliance in the future.

“I think that the Bucharest communique stands. The allies have said in Bucharest that one day Georgia will join NATO,” Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a news conference following NATO talks with Georgia in Brussels.
RIA Novosti

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