De Hoop De Hoop Scheffer: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Good to see you and it's a special pleasure, of course, for me to welcome, once again, President Saakashvili here at NATO Headquarters.
It will not come as a surprise to you that the main part of our conversation was devoted to the present state of the Georgia and NATO relationship.
You know that Georgia is working hard on the Individual Partnership Action Program, the so-called IPAP. A team of NATO recently visited Tbilisi. You know that the decision was made to enter into the so-called Intensified Dialogue with Georgia. That is not just talking to each other, also for Intensified Dialogue. There are structures.
The team which came back from Tbilisi came back on a positive note as far as the ongoing reforms in Georgia are concerned. There were some concerns on certain issues. I discussed them with the President and Georgia is working hard on them as well.
But we also discussed, and that is important, I think, given Georgia's aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration—here at NATO we speak, of course, about the Atlantic part of this process—is that Georgia has been, and is as we speak, a security provider. Very important—Georgian participation in KFOR in Kosovo. You know that Georgia was supporting ISAF. I hope that Georgia might support ISAF in Afghanistan once again. That is a very important element indeed.
We also, of course, discussed the situation in Georgia specifically. The stunning figures the President told me about on the growth of the Georgian economy. Stunning figures indeed. Many nations will be fairly jealous on those figures.
The President informed us and me about the situation in the region, which is, of course, important because after all, Georgia's neighbours are partners of NATO. Russia is an important part of NATO. The NATO-Russia relationship is an important partnership. That also goes for the other nations in the region. You know that not that long ago we had President Aliyev, Azerbaijan, visiting these Headquarters.
The point... the most important point I can make now is I do realize I'm not going to pre-empt other questions from your side, is that we use the Intensified Dialogue and we use the IPAP process to the full between NATO and Georgia. Georgia knows it has NATO's full support. Georgia also knows that the Riga Summit came out, I think, very clearly on respect for the territorial integrity of Georgia. Let me reiterate that once again.
Also, what was underlined again by the NATO Heads of State and Government is the absolute need for a peaceful resolution. I repeat, a peaceful resolution, of the conflicts.
Those are the basics in our relationship. It is a great pleasure, Mr. President, to have you here once again, and it is also with pleasure that I would like to ask you to say a few words?
MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI (President of Georgia): Well, I'm thrilled to be here again at the NATO Headquarters, and we have really good kind of experience of cooperation. And indeed, we are not only in Kosovo, and we contribute to international security world-wide(?) because we are also present in Europe, but we are also willing to contribute more to our operations in Afghanistan and we discussed this, to send limited number of Georgian contingent to Afghanistan.
But also we are on the track for a... for NATO because we, as you rightly said, we had your assessment mission and basically overall assessment, the comments are heard, they still have to come with final report, was overwhelmingly extremely positive. And we are very happy with this. That means that Georgia is on the track for accession.
Now, we don't want to speculate about further than that, but we are on track. And nobody should derail us and we should not derail ourselves from that track. That's what we know. We still have to do our homework. We still have to work on the reports. We still have to continue with what we are doing for the sake of our own internal development, certainly, primarily, but also to be part of larger picture of European and world security.
And I think from that point of view Georgia's importance as a role model for the region as a contributor, indeed, rather than consumer or security, is growing and I think NATO and our cooperation with NATO is greatly contributing to that.
I'm very pleased by our conversations here and basically we are believing this is like final stage of our stay in Brussels and we are leaving with very positive impressions and positive basic outcomes from Brussels.
MODERATOR: Okay, please, one by one. If you could introduce yourself first.
Q: Thank you. Georgia TV Company, (inaudible).... Question for Mr. Scheffer. Mr. Scheffer, how do you see the progress... Georgia's progress in this years and in your opinion how is in future in Georgia?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, let me repeat what I said. I have commended the President privately. I can do it publicly as well, about the great strides as far as reform is concerned Georgia has made and Georgia is making.
I also say there's still points of concern. I mean, nobody's perfect, and the President told me that in Georgia he and his government are working hard to redress that.
So the general picture is a positive one. Georgia has made great strides in reform. But I always say, and let me repeat this here, we will not derail Georgia. I'm sure that Georgia will certainly not derail itself. But to go from the railroad to the road, the famous Beatles' song, The Long and Winding Road, John Lennon, the road to NATO membership is long and winding. But we'll assist, and we'll help. That is the situation.
MODERATOR: Okay next. Try it again.
Q: David (inaudible), Georgian Broadcasting Company. (inaudible)... mentioned about unresolved conflicts in Georgia. How NATO is going to help Georgia on this issue?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: On what issue is...
Q: Unresolved conflicts in Georgia.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: NATO takes the position that the solution for the unresolved conflicts should be a peaceful one. NATO is not seeking, not seeking a direct role in the solution of these conflicts. But I say, again, if you mention the conflicts, Riga was extremely clear about the respect for the territorial integrity of Georgia.
MODERATOR: Hi, excuse me. I think the lady who is in the back wanted to ask the question, so I would like to give her a chance, please.
Q: Thank you very much. (inaudible)... of Georgia, Nina (inaudible). NATO and Georgia's relations are getting closer every day. What are your expectations from Georgia in the future? What shall we do more?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, as I said, continue reforms, use Intensified Dialogue to the full, use the Individual Partnership Action Plan to the full, stay in close touch with NATO, that is part of... an essential part of the road Georgia has so firmly decided to travel under the leadership of this president.
And NATO is ready to help and NATO is ready to assist. If your second question would be, it is not about the timeframes. That is difficult to say. Go on working and at a certain stage other steps will follow. I say at a certain stage.
Q: Secretary General, David Brunnstrom from Reuters. I believe that Georgia, the President, in fact, said yesterday that they were hoping to move to the next stage of the Membership Action Plan, either this year or next year. How realistic do you consider that to be?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I pre-empted your question a bit by answering the lady in the front. That is an answer I cannot possibly give, because I stick to my iron rule that I never give timeframes or dates or month or years. It's a performance-based process, and performance is first and foremost. And Georgia has performed well and is performing well, in the hands of Georgia and the Georgians. So I'm not going to go into any detail about timeframes or years or months or whatever.
SAAKASHVILI: What we expect from Secretary General is exactly what he said, that we've been performing well and are performing well. That's it. And then we can, you know, figure out from that some kind of things. I think we are very, very optimistic about speed, about prospects, and about, you know, all the other things, including the very exciting road. I mean, it's not only difficult, I would say an exciting.
Q: Long-winding and exciting.
Q: Georgian Broadcasting Company, (inaudible)... You've already mentioned about the common aspects, but I'd like to ask you, what is the main aspect that will accelerate the process of integration of Georgia and the North Atlantic Alliance.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: That is simply set, follow the pattern of reforms, using the existing format, do well what you have to do and I say again, a lot has been done in Georgia. I commend Georgia for that. That is the answer to your question.
SAAKASHVILI: So we should stay ourselves.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I have no doubt, knowing this President a bit better, that he'll stay himself, and that Georgia will stay... the Georgian people will stay themselves, if you see what I mean.