by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of Georgia, Mamuka Bakhtadze - Secretary General's opening remarks
Prime Minister Bakhtadze,
It is a great pleasure and honour to welcome you here to the NATO Headquarters, to this new building. And also to express my gratitude to Georgia and to you personally for the many contributions you are making to the NATO missions and operations. To our NATO Response Force and to our partnership in general. And we are extremely grateful for the close cooperation and for all the things we do together because that’s good for NATO and it’s good for Georgia. Especially, I would like to mention in particularly your contribution to our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Georgia has for many years been one of the largest force contributors to the Resolute Support Mission and your brave troops have helped us prevent Afghanistan once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorism.
And I also appreciate that fact that you are exercising together with the NATO troops. I met the Georgian troops both in Afghanistan but also during NATO exercises and the fact that you are part of the NATO Response Force shows that your troops, your forces meet the high standards of NATO and are able to participate in NATO exercises and missions and operations.
We fully support Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
At the Summit last week, all 29 Allies reaffirmed that Georgia will become a member of NATO.
This is in line with the decision we made at our Bucharest Summit in 2008.
And we will continue to work with you to prepare for membership.
Georgia has made impressive progress on reforms.
Including on economic development, more effective security and defence institutions and modernising your armed forces.
It is important that these efforts continue.
The Substantial NATO-Georgia Package is already bolstering your country’s defence reforms.
Including with the NATO-Georgia Joint Training Centre outside Tbilisi.
I also expect broad Allied participation in next year’s NATO-Georgia exercise.
Today we also discussed the security situation in and around the Black Sea region.
And Russia’s substantial military build-up in the region.
The Black Sea is of strategic importance.
And NATO and Georgia are stepping up our cooperation in the area:
With training for Georgian Coast Guard boarding teams.
With more interaction between Georgian and NATO naval forces.
And with cooperation between Georgia’s Joint Maritime Operations Centre and the NATO Shipping Centre.
So Prime Minister,
NATO is united in our support for Georgia’s security.
And its territorial integrity.
Within its internationally recognised borders.
This includes the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
And we call on Russia to withdraw its forces from your country.
So Prime Minister, once again thank you again for being here at the NATO HQ today.
The relationship between NATO and your country is stronger than ever.
So once again, welcome.
Mamuka Bakhtadze [Georgian Prime Minister]: Thank you, dear Secretary General, for these very supportive and kind words. And, on my first official visit to Brussels as the Prime Minister of Georgia, we have held a very fruitful meeting with NATO. The government of Georgia is fully committed to achieve NATO membership. During the meeting, we have discussed the decisions made at the NATO Summit. We have focused on how Summit decisions move Georgia closer to NATO membership. We have also planned our coordinated efforts in this regard for the very near future. We have reviewed the most important, practical, deliverables of this Summit. We are enhancing our cooperation on Black Sea security, we will have more active naval cooperation, as well as extended mutual situational awareness.
Speaking on defence reforms in Georgia, and NATO's contribution in this regard, we have noted that the substantial NATO-Georgia package, the so-called SNGP, is delivering results. At the Summit, we agreed to further enhance this process in areas like counter-mobility, secure communications and cyber defence. Next year, we will hold joint NATO-Georgia exercise and NATO members pledge to participate broadly in this exercise. We have discussed Georgia's contributions to international security and to NATO operations and missions, including the contribution to the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and to the NATO Response Force. I have pledged that Georgia, as a future member of NATO, will continue its contribution to common Euro-Atlantic security.
We are thankful for Allies' firm assistance towards Russia to reverse its recognition of the so-called independence and withdraw its military forces from occupied territories of Georgia. Mr Stoltenberg reaffirmed the Alliance strong support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. We all agree that the reforms successfully implemented by Georgia, together with assistance provided by the NATO, will contribute to our ultimate goal to become the full member of NATO.
The Bucharest Summit decision that Georgia will become a NATO member state was reiterated in Brussels just a week ago and our joint efforts are directed to implement this very important decision. And once again, I would like to thank you, Mr Stoltenberg, personally for your continued support of Georgia on this very important path for our country and our nation. Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you very much. We'll go to questions. We'll begin with the lady in the white jacket, please.
Question [Rustavi 2]: I want to ask to both sides about Russia's Federations President, Mr Putin's statement about Georgia's membership. He tell that this is a direct and immediate threat for Russia's national security and reaction will be extremely negative. So, how do you estimate this statement? And also, can we tell that such kind of position is one of the main obstacle that we have not political consensus about Georgia's membership in NATO? Thanks.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Russia has no right to decide on behalf of its neighbours. Russia has no right to decide what neighbours of Russia can do, because Georgia is a sovereign independent nation and Georgia has the right to decide its own path, including what kind of security arrangements Georgia wants to be part of. So, just the whole idea that a neighbour tells a neighbour what they can do and what they cannot do, is totally unacceptable. Because that is to re-establish the old idea of spheres of influences, where big powers were in a position where they can decide what small neighbours could do or not do. And coming myself from a small country neighbouring Russia, Norway, of course we are very glad that, back in 1949, when Norway joined NATO, that we never accepted that the Soviet Union had any right to deny Norway to join NATO. And that’s exactly the same today. Georgia is a free, independent sovereign country and Georgia has the right to decide its own path. So, just the perception, just the idea that if Georgia, through democratic processes, decides what it will like to do, is a threat or a provocation to Russia is completely wrong. It's effort to… it's an attempt to re-establish that big powers can decide what smaller neighbours can do.
So, the reality is that it's only the 29 NATO members and Georgia, an aspirant country, that decides when Georgia is going to become a member. And therefore, I welcome the fact that all the 29 NATO leaders, when they met here in Brussels just a few days ago, they reiterated that Georgia will become a member of NATO, they reiterated that they will provide support to Georgia as it move towards… moves towards membership. We will continue to provide practical support, political support, with implementing defence reforms, modernising defence and security institutions in Georgia, and we will work with Georgia with exercises and with training and with different programmes.
So, this is for Georgia and 29 NATO members to decide when Georgia becomes a member. Russia has no say in that process.
Mamuka Bakhtadze [Georgian Prime Minister]: Thank you for this question. And firstly, of course, I would like to highlight that Georgian membership in NATO is not aimed against somebody. It just to make region stronger, more predictable and more secure. And Georgia is independent country and we are making decisions ourselves and, as Mr Stoltenberg mentioned, the decisions in NATO are made on a consensus basis, so this means that it's Georgia and 29 countries that have to make a decision when Georgia will become a member. A week ago, once again, all the NATO countries once again stated that Georgia has all the practical tools to eventually become a full member of NATO.
Moderator: Thank you very much. We have time for one more question. We'll go to the lady in the black, please.
Question [Imedi]: TV company, Imedi. I have a question for both of you. You know that European Euro-Atlantic integration is a choice of the vast majority of Georgian citizens. People are interested in what is left to be done by Georgia. I mean specifically to become a member of NATO. Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: To continue to implement reforms, to continue to modernise its defence and security sector, to continue to modernise and reform the judicial structures of Georgia, and to continue of course to train and to increase the quality and the standards of the Georgian armed forces. So, we are addressing all these challenges together because this is of course for Georgia to deliver, but it's for NATO to help and support. And therefore, I'm glad to know that there is more NATO in Georgia now than ever before, with more advisers, more trainers, more support in different ways. But also the fact that we see that Georgia has made and is making real and significant progress, progress which was recognised by the 29 Heads of State and Government at the NATO Summit last week.
Mamuka Bakhtadze [Georgian Prime Minister]: Georgia has made huge progress on the path to meet the requirements of NATO and we have a very comprehensive agenda. The reforms which we should implement, with the support of NATO countries, and of course we do understand that this path is full of challenges, but as we have demonstrated in the past that we are actually very motivated to implement all the reform at the highest level possible, we’re going to continue to do that and I am sure that the new wave of reforms, which we will implement in near future, will be implemented at the highest level possible, with the support of our friends from NATO. Thank you.
Moderator: That’s all we have time for. Thank you all very much.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you very much.
Mamuka Bakhtadze [Georgian Prime Minister]: Thank you.