Joint press briefing
by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the President of Georgia, H.E Mr Mikheil Saakashvili
Good morning. It is a great pleasure to see President Saakashvili again and to welcome him to NATO headquarters.
We last met a few months ago in Batumi, when the president hosted a visit of the North Atlantic Council to Georgia. Now the North Atlantic Council is about to host the president. And that shows that our dialogue is deep, it is intensive, and it really is a two-way street.
Georgia is a special partner for NATO. You are committed to our operations, to NATO accession, and committed to reforms.
You already contribute the second-largest non-NATO force to our mission in Afghanistan. And by the end of this year, you will be the largest non-NATO ISAF partner. Your troops are doing an outstanding job, shoulder-to-shoulder with NATO troops, under challenging circumstances. Some have given their lives in our shared cause and I pay tribute to their sacrifice, and I offer my deepest condolences to their families and loved ones.
But our relationship goes far beyond Afghanistan. Georgia aspires to join our Alliance, and we support your aspirations. We agreed at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 that Georgia will become a member of NATO. That decision stands firm.
And let me reaffirm: the Alliance recognises Georgia’s territorial integrity and its sovereignty within internationally recognised borders.
The Alliance does not recognise the elections held recently in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The holding of these elections does not contribute to a peaceful and lasting settlement of the situation in Georgia.
Georgia has become a model of commitment, cooperation and connectivity with the Alliance and we encourage you to continue that way. One month ago, we agreed on strengthening and broadening the connections between NATO and Georgia. This will support your reforms, increase our ability to operate together and strengthen the capacity of the Georgian institutions to pursue your Euro-Atlantic agenda and goals.
This is a long road, and we are taking it one step at a time. But you have already made good progress. And I trust that you will continue with your progress, and your reforms, as you approach the parliamentary elections this year. Those elections will be an important test for Georgia’s democracy and a chance to show how far you have come. I know that Allies will follow them closely.
In all, Georgia is a model partner. Mr President, I look forward to seeing you again in Chicago, where Allies and partners will make clear our continued commitment to Afghanistan. And I expect that, in Chicago, we will also make clear how much we appreciate and recognise the commitment you show to NATO, and the steady progress you have made.
Mikheil Saakashvili (President of Georgia): Thank you, Mr. Secretary General. First, I would like to really underline how grateful me and our people, which is more important, for your very strong personal stand in support of Georgia. In your previous capacity as Prime Minister of Denmark we will never forget your strong statements in 2008; the fact that you came to Tbilisi immediately after the events that took place then.
My first official visit after the events was to Denmark, and that was again, I will never forget your reception. And then in this very efficient quality which you have now and very successful mission of being Secretary General of the Alliance, you've been very strong in supporting Georgia's NATO aspirations, in supporting our reforms, in supporting Georgia's territorial integrity and underlining the stability of the status quo with our regions, and certainly this is something that makes an historic difference for long-term prospects for... not only for my country, but also for our region.
We also appreciate the way you really led NATO through very difficult missions and for us the success of that mission is absolutely essential for our long-term survival, success and further progress.
We certainly are committed to further changes. We are looking forward to Chicago. I think the framework we are now getting for Chicago looks more and more hopeful, because it really underlines that Georgia has been moving forward. That's very important to underline.
I noticed, Mr. Secretary General, that twice in your short statement today you mentioned Georgia as a model, as a role model and a model country and this really goes to what... I visited President Obama in January and President Obama called Georgia a model for the whole region of reforms and changes and democracy-building, and I think the fact that you're also talking about this model of Georgia is for us of special significance. It's the first time underlines our progress, but also how committed we should stay to this kind of thing.
We have elections this year and we call strongly on the international community, on the European Union, the European Parliament, the OSCE, our partner countries, including the members of the Alliance, to send, not only short- term, but long-term observers, to do polling of public opinion for all this period, monitor Georgian media coverage, monitor party financing mechanisms in Georgia, in order to ensure not just the day of elections, but the whole process is transparent, predictable from the point of view of observing standards, and we exclude any kind of surprises or any kind of biased and not such well-wishing pressure on the whole process from outside, or from destructive elements from any side.
So from that point of view we really want your help this year. And we will certainly be committed to making this. Usually countries try to avoid, especially in my region, all kinds of international intrusion into their election process. We want it. We want it in order to make the whole thing sustainable and institution-building irreversible.
From our point of view, you know, we certainly are committed to our mission in Afghanistan. This is a hard mission, thank you for underlining, but we know what's at stake here. We know that we... it also brings us close to the Alliance, it also makes our... it also resonates with Georgian history, of being part of a wider western civilized, or in this case democratic wider community, and from that point of view we know, and our people know, that despite the losses what's at stake there, what's at stake for the international community, and what's at stake for our region and what's at stake for us and for our future.
It's also good that it helps to develop Georgia's own capacities that have been evolving with your help and we certainly count that with the enhanced connectivity idea that now we have with NATO, with NATO-Georgia Commission, it has really proven to be the right venue for this. I think we're moving forward.
Again, I'm looking forward to seeing North Atlantic Council. It's our second meeting for the last several months. You've been very generous in your positive assessment last time when you were in Georgia, of our reforms. We have done quite some progress after that too. I'll report about this progress to NAC, and I'll be very open to all kinds of questions. We know it's always a frank discussion and that's what we appreciate in NATO. It's not just a ceremonial thing. It's really a place to discuss real business and to have real decisions taken.
Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson): Please don't forget to introduce yourself and which media you come from. We'll go over there.
Q: Thank you very much. Georgian Public Broadcast. Mr. Secretary General, how will the progress made by Georgia, you mentioned about it, will be reflected in Chicago? Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: We have not yet made the final decisions as to how we will organize partnership events in Chicago. But I think we will reflect our special partnership with Georgia in three ways.
Firstly, reflect that Georgia is one of the major contributors to our operation in Afghanistan. Secondly, reflect that Georgia in general is a major contributor to the transatlantic cooperation within the special NATO-Georgia Commission. And thirdly, that Georgia is also considered an aspirant country; a country that aspires to become a future member of NATO.
All in all, I hope that could be reflected in a strong declaration statement from the Summit, and as regards special partnership events, we are still considering how they will be organized. No final decision has been made yet.
Oana Lungescu: One other question over there.
Q: Sophiko Zurabiani, Georgian TV company Imedi. I would like to ask questions to both of you. You answered me yesterday, Secretary General, that one of the main issues today will be security issues. So that's why I'm asking what's Georgia's role in security in the region?
And the second question, you mentioned already progress made by Georgia in the way toward NATO, but it's a very important question to media, that's why I would like to specify on it. How would you evaluate progress made in Georgia-NATO relations and also on the way of its democratization reforms?
Thank you so much.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Firstly, on the contribution to regional peace and stability, we appreciate the very clear statements from President Saakashvili, as well as the Georgian Government, that Georgia is committed to finding peaceful solutions to the regional disputes.
We support those efforts. We also strongly support the Geneva talks with the aim to find a solution to the conflict on Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But more broadly speaking about security, the President also made clear today that the Georgian engagement in Afghanistan should also be seen as a strong contribution to regional security because what is going on in Afghanistan will also have repercussions in the broader region, including in the Caucasus.
So I think Georgia has demonstrated that Georgia is not just a consumer of security. Georgia is also a producer, a provider of security.
As regards to the reform process, we have seen clear progress when it comes to democratic reforms in Georgia. We have discussed that on several occasions and we appreciate very much legislation that has been passed to improve the way democracy functions in Georgia.
In more specific terms, when it comes to reforms of the defence and security sector, NATO has been strongly engaged and we also appreciate progress achieved in that area.
So all in all NATO has given a very positive assessment of the reform efforts in Georgia.
Mikheil Saakashvili: Well, as I said, you know, for us... the Secretary General basically said brilliantly, I cannot put it a better way, if I have... which I have said that, you know, nobody can sell success of the Georgian Government more to the world and those of the Georgian people as he does, as a very good communicator. But also it's a substance to it and the substance is that our approachment(?) to NATO has been driving that process as well. This is not just an issue... you know, when we talk about reforms, the fact that 70 percent plus of our people are firmly committed to membership of NATO and only 9 percent is against, that clearly shows you that that's a very powerful motivator for further democratic reforms it changes. And from that point of view we are very committed. We are very committed to security, because as we said, we want to be part of the wider picture. Georgians have in them almost like code of national history, of being ourselves, a complex multi-ethnic country with lots of background, complex background, that we should be present in these international operations, and we want NATO to succeed. Any kind of setback for NATO would be a major multiplied setback for Georgia. That's a very clear thing for us.
We cannot stay intact or neutral or just impartial when we are talking about these issues where we have absolutely life kind of interests in terms of success of the Alliance. On that point to me whatever we can do in... now we draw all process, but also finishing the operation correctly, also unfortunately knowing that where people have died there and there is always a risk to building post-war Afghanistan, in contributing to it, not only in terms of funds, but also in terms of changes, reforms, training, giving our own infrastructure for that, participating with our own infrastructure in the withdrawal process. We are willing to do all of that, and I think this will only enhance our ties with the Alliance because it's also ultimately that's what it's also about for our people.
In any case, we have much better working cooperation now in NATO than ever before. We used to have very good political relations. Now under this leadership of NATO, and also because within the last two years we really got commission and other things concretely so we could cooperate better. And we are doing that.
Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. This concludes the press point. Thank you.