by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the joint press point with the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia
Prime Minister Gakharia, dear Giorgi.
It is a great pleasure to welcome you here to the NATO Headquarters and I really appreciate the strong and close partnership between Georgia and NATO. And it’s also a pleasure to welcome the Foreign Minister to HQ because I think that reflects the political importance of our partnership.
Georgia is one of NATO’s most important partners. You contribute to our shared security in many different ways, including with troops in NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan.
We can all be proud of what we do together and you can be proud of your contributions to our shared security and contributions to NATO missions and operations.
During our meeting today we also discussed the close cooperation between Georgia and NATO on the Black Sea security.
Earlier this year, Allies agreed to strengthen our partnership even further.
This includes sharing more air traffic radar data, working jointly to address hybrid threats, as well as doing joint exercises in the Black Sea region.
NATO supports Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognised borders.
We call on Russia to end its recognition of the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and to withdraw its forces.
We welcome the progress Georgia is making on reforms.
Your country has already made good progress in modernizing your armed forces, and in strengthening your democracy.
And I encourage you to continue making full use of all the opportunities for coming closer to NATO. And to prepare for membership.
We count on Georgia to ensure next month’s elections meet the highest international standards.
This is important for Georgia, and for NATO.
So Prime Minister,
Thank you for coming to NATO, thank you for meeting me at the NATO Headquarters today, and for your strong personal commitment to our Alliance.
NATO’s partnership with Georgia makes us all safer and more secure.
So once again, welcome, and it’s a great pleasure to have you here.
[Remarks by the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia]
PIERS CAZALET [NATO Deputy Spokesperson]: We have time for one question; we'll take IMEDI TV.
QUESTION: Georgian TV IMEDI, Ketevan Kardava. Good morning, Mr. Prime Minister. Welcome to Brussels and NATO, and Mr Secretary General, I'm very happy to see you here again because of the pandemic we have no chance to come here. How would you evaluate the progress made by Georgia on its paths to future membership? And also I want to ask you what possibilities do you see on NATO's eastern flank to engage more? And you mentioned Black Sea region. From your perspective what role can Georgia play? Can you tell us more? We always emphasise on this issue but we want to hear from you as much as it is possible. And Mr. Prime Minister what message have you passed, just passed, to NATO? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Thanks so much. Let me just start by commending Georgia for the progress Georgia has made over several years on implementing reforms to strengthen their democratic institutions, to strengthen democratic oversight over intelligence security services, strengthen democratic control over the armed forces and implement reforms in many other areas. I have, in particular, underlined the importance of continuing reforming the judiciary, and also making sure the full democratic oversight of the security services. Georgia has made and is making progress on all these areas, and we welcome and encourage further focus on reform, and we also discussed that during our meeting.
The good thing is that we see that Georgia and NATO are now working more closely together than they ever before. As we have stated there is more NATO in Georgia, but also more Georgia in NATO than we have seen before, and step-by-step we are doing more together.
Recently we have focused on the Black Sea region maritime capabilities, working together with our maritime command in the United Kingdom, and some support for the coast guard port visits by NATO ships. And we have also recognised during our conversation today the strategic importance of the Black Sea region for Georgia, for NATO Allies. And, therefore, I welcome everything we can do together in that vein.
We are now looking into whether we can add more elements to our cooperation, and that includes air traffic data; whether we can improve the way we share information about the radar picture, air traffic. Again, good for Georgia, good for NATO Allies in the region, which, where we have seen the substantial Russian build-up over the last years.
We're also working closely on how to do more together to address hybrid threats. And we are holding exercises together in the Black Sea region, such as the recent exercise, Noble Partner. And, as the Prime Minister mentioned, we are now working on how to refresh the substantial NATO-Georgia package.
So the thing is that, step-by-step, we do more together, and not least, we are extremely grateful for Georgia's strong commitment to NATO's training mission in Afghanistan. Georgia has for many years been one of the countries at the top level of contributions to that mission. And we strongly believe that it is important we are ready to stay committed to Afghanistan, because that's the best way we can support the peace efforts.
So again, we are grateful for the close cooperation with Georgia. We commend them for the progress you are making. And then we look forward to further strengthening our partnership and moving towards full Euro-Atlantic integration.
GIORGI GAKHARIA [Prime Minister of Georgia]: We agreed that for last few years we had very dynamic cooperation. On practical level I mean the exercises, and 2019 was excellent year for us. In this regard, at the same time, we fix our readiness to continue reforms in different directions. And we think that it's very important for the development of country and it's very important for deepening the cooperation between NATO and Georgia.
The most important part for us was to figure out the function of Georgia - the new role of Georgia on Black Sea security. We see Black Sea security as the window of opportunity for Georgia, for deepening the cooperation with NATO.
Of course, at the same time very important elections are coming, and we fix our commitment that the government will do everything for free elections, and it will be the next step forward for consolidating democracy in the country, and it will be the next step forward for deepening the cooperation with NATO on political dimension.
PIERS CAZALET: That’s all we have time for. Thank you very much.