Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili
President Zourabichvili, dear Salome.
It is a pleasure to welcome you back to NATO Headquarters.
Georgia is one of NATO’s most important partners.
We have a close political partnership and strong practical cooperation.
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, NATO and Georgia continue to strengthen our partnership.
At today’s meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission, we will take stock of our achievements, and assess what more we can do together.
Last year, we upgraded the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package.
This helps Georgia to implement reforms;
Enhance its ability to operate with Allies;
And continue to contribute to our shared security.
Our key priorities include:
Secure communications, and actually the President and I discussed that during the meeting today;
Training and exercises;
And enhancing our maritime support and situational awareness.
Today we will also address the security situation in the Black Sea region.
And Russia’s continued military build-up.
NATO supports Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, within its international recognised borders.
We continue to call on Russia to end its recognition of the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and to withdraw its forces.
And I took good note of the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. It confirms that Russia is responsible for human rights violations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and that Russia actually exercises control there. It only strengthens our call for Russia to comply with international law and respect Georgia’s territorial integrity.
In our meeting, we also discussed the progress Georgia is making on reforms.
This is crucial.
Because progress on the reforms brings you closer to our shared goal: membership of NATO.
Today we addressed Georgia’s commitment to our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
Georgia has long been one of the largest troop contributors to NATO’s training mission. We appreciate the professionalism of Georgian men and women in uniform. And we all know the sacrifices you have made.
So, Madam President, Salomé.
Thank you for being here today.
And for your strong personal commitment to NATO, and to our partnership.
NATO’s partnership with Georgia makes us all safer and more secure.
Deputy NATO Spokesperson Piers Cazalet: We have time I think for two quick questions. First of all, we go to Levan Akhalaia from the Georgian Public Broadcaster.
Levan Akhalaia - Georgian Public Broadcaster: Thank you, good afternoon, Secretary General, Madam President. Levan Akhalaia from Georgian Public Broadcaster so my question is for Secretary General. New US President announced the plan for strengthening alliances and partnerships. State Secretary nominee wrote NATO door is open for Georgia, if it can contribute to the Atlantic security Give us more an understanding though, what do you expect Georgia to do. Thank you.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, I very much welcome the strong commitment by the United States to rebuilding alliances and also working with partners, and I cannot speak on behalf of the new US administration but I know President Biden has a strong support role of the transatlantic bond, and Georgia is part of that transatlantic bond; North America and Europe, working together. And the United States over many years pushed for strengthening the partnership, and the United States has also clearly supported the NATO decisions we all made together.
Also on the issue of membership of Georgia into NATO. I think what we have to realise is that despite the pandemic, we have been able to continue to strengthen our political and practical cooperation.
We have had substantial political dialogue, over the last year with meetings of the NATO-Georgia Commission. Last September I met with the Georgian Prime Minister Georgian Foreign Minister. And also, NATO's Foreign Ministers met with Georgia's Foreign Minister to discuss Black Sea security.
And then as the President referred to, we have strengthened our substantial package, so we can also further strengthen our practical cooperation.
We have the NATO liaison office in Tbilisi, we have the joint training, and emulation centre, and with the enhanced package, we are focusing on different things but, including the implementation of secure communications projects, continued support to the joint training, and emulation centre and more NATO-Georgia exercises in 2022. On top of that we will also further strengthen what we do in the maritime domain and NATO has provided some support to your Coast Guard. We're now looking into how we can further strengthen that cooperation.
What Georgia can do, is to continue to implement reforms. We need strong democratic institutions. We need to make sure that we have more than, and capable security institutions. And of course, civilian control over both the military and the intelligence services. On all these issues we're working together, and reform is the key effort, the key task for Georgia, as you move towards NATO membership.
Deputy NATO Spokesperson Piers Cazalet: We have time for one more question we'll go to Teri Schultz from Deutsche Welle.
Teri Schultz Deutsche Welle: Sorry about that. Thank you very much for your time. Mr. Secretary General, the New START treaty despite the US intention to ask for an extension isn't a done deal yet. First of all, are you concerned that Russia may come up with a reason not to extend despite it's signalling that it also wants to extend for five years. What are the stakes for European allies, if by some chance, the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty would fall apart and, above all, are you concerned about being able to verify the treaty? Despite the mechanisms that are built into it, we've seen treaty after treaty crumble because of a lack of trust between the West, the US and Russia. Are you worried that once again, there would be violations that could be dangerous for Europe and Madam President, I would also be interested in your thoughts on having to keep alive this last remaining US-Russian arms control pact, thanks.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I welcome President Biden's announcement, and his intention to seek an extension of the New START treaty. I have stated repeatedly that we should not end up in a situation where we have no agreement, no limitation whatsoever on the number of nuclear warheads. And therefore, an extension of the New START treaty is important because unless it is extended it will expire on the fifth of February.
NATO allies have made it clear that they all support the new START agreement, because it has been also, such a great importance for all of us. NATO has been on the forefront of arms control for decades, and we have seen the demise of some other treaties, including the INF Treaty, we should avoid and prevent the demise of the New START treaty.
Having said that, an extension of the New START treaty is not the end. It should be at the beginning of renewed efforts to strengthen international arms control, to look into how we can cover more weapons systems, and also include more nations, for instance, China.
I call on Russia to respond in a positive way to the US proposal. This is a bilateral agreement between the United States and Russia. The United States has consulted closely with NATO allies on the new START, and the possibility of extending the treaty and, and I'm confident that the United States will continue to consult closely with allies on arms control in general and new START, in particular.
Verification is of course of great importance. So as we work on how to strengthen and enhance arms control, the issue of covering war weapon systems, the issue of including more nations but also of course the verification will be one of the key issues that has to be addressed in the future.
President of Georgia Salomé Zourabichvili: As for us, of course, we're not part to any of those discussions, but it's very clear for a small country, and a small country in the region where we are and especially at this time in that region, that whatever constraints the militarization of the region and of some of the big powers that are around us, is very important.
Arms Control is always a positive development but knowing as we know, Russia from closer, it's very clear that what is key is monitoring, is verification, it's not taking words as granted, and under that condition, it becomes a very important instrument for which we would be very thankful if that happens, but with maximum control.
Deputy NATO Spokesperson Piers Cazalet: I'm afraid that's all we have time for. Thank you very much. Thank you, Secretary General, thank you Madam President.