MOSCOW, September 5 (Itar-Tass) - Georgia’s plans to join NATO raise legitimate concerns in Russia, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said.
“The continuing discussion of prospects for Georgia’s admission to NATO is a matter of concern for us, and political changes in Tbilisi do not allow us to soften our position on this issue,” Karasin told the online service Russia Direct on Thursday, September 5.
“Georgian membership would have a negative impact on the entire range of relations between Russia and the alliance,” he said. “We expect NATO members to handle this issue in as responsible a manner as possible. They should focus their efforts with regard to Tbilisi on facilitating stability and security in the region, including of course peaceful coexistence with Georgia’s neighbours, primarily the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of South Ossetia,” Karasin said.
He warned against rearming Georgia, “including under the pretext of preparing for NATO operations in Afghanistan, and a possible situation where the arms being pulled out from Afghanistan will remain in Georgia.”
Georgia has no alternative to admission to NATO and the European Union, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said earlier.
“Georgia has no alternative to admission to NATO and the EU no matter which government there is in the country. Our country sympathises with them and advocates full association,” the president said.
“Georgia has made a decision to become a member of NATO. But relations and integration are different things. The prime minister basically rejected NATO membership. I do not think Georgia should give up integration with NATO and have good relations with Russia. Global integration and simple relations between countries should not be sacrificed,” Saakashvili said.
“Our people cannot turn their back on Europe and NATO. Our people voted for the government but not against integration into EU structures,” the president said.
The European Union and NATO are the only organisations Georgia plans to join, Foreign Minister Panjikidze said.
NATO reiterated its decision to admit Georgia to the alliance. The NATO leaders agreed “to enhance Georgia’s connectivity with the Alliance, including by further strengthening our political dialogue, practical cooperation, and interoperability with Georgia.”
They continue to encourage and actively support Georgia’s ongoing implementation of all necessary reforms, including democratic, electoral, and judicial reforms, as well as security and defence reforms.
Saakashvili said the decision to grant Georgia the status of aspirant country was “very important.”
Four states described by NATO as aspirant countries are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia and Montenegro.
Georgia's top officials say that Tbilisi continues the policy of integration with the North Atlantic Alliance and stress that membership in the alliance will help strengthen the country’s independence, security and sovereignty, facilitate its socio-economic and democratic development.