Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Ekaterine Tkeshelashvili, following the meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission in Foreign Ministers session

  • 03 Dec. 2008
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  • Last updated: 19 Jan. 2009 14:36

AAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General, NATO): Let me start by welcoming you Minister here.  Let me say that, I already had the opportunity yesterday to discuss with the representatives of the media extensively what was decided by the allies yesterday vis-à-vis the relationship between NATO and Georgia.  Let me very briefly remind you that that message was and is that NATO Allies are clear and that they are unanimous in the sense that all elements... I repeat all elements of the Bucharest decision still stand, that Georgia has made progress; that there is significant work left to do. And that is why we have decided to provide further assistance in implementing the needed reforms as Georgia progresses towards NATO membership.

Now what does it mean?  It means NATO will maximize its advice, assistance and support to the reform efforts in Georgia, by Georgia through the so-called NATO-Georgia Commission.  We'll reinforce our liaison office in Tbilissi.  And under this NATO-Georgia Commission we'll have... and that is new... annual national programmes which will develop to help Georgia advance its reforms and those annual programmes... "ça va sans dire", in French... will be reviewed annually by Georgia and by the Allies. 

So I think a crystal clear decision yesterday.  What did we do this morning? The minister, of course...  but she'll speak for herself, we discussed the evolving situation on the ground in Georgia, there’s still concern, of course, on the ground.  And there was agreement, I think, in the NATO-Georgia Commission which by the way convened for the first time in foreign ministerial session, there was agreement that our practical support for Georgia, for example, in assessing Georgia's military requirements and in building up a better air picture is going on as it should. 

And, as I said, we discussed this morning of course how we're going to take our intensive engagement forward with more practical cooperation through the mentioned NATO-Georgia Commission. 

So the bottom-line, we have reaffirmed all the elements I mentioned to you yesterday of the decisions of yesterday, of the decisions of Bucharest.  And we have taken concrete steps to step up our efforts to support Georgia's reform, to see that Georgia can meet the NATO standards as quickly as possible.  I think a strong and political signal.   Please Minister.

EKATERINE TKESHELASHVILI (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia):  Well, thank you very much.  To begin with a perspective and a vision that as much as we see decisions as of yesterday and then discussions as of today can be reflected in our vision, is that we have a very substantial progress.  A progress in such a way with which we have a clear perspective of the process, which will be moving towards the final end goal that we have which is the membership of this organization.

After the war in Georgia, with the way how Russia invaded in my country, one of the aims was very clear at that time, it was to destroy the possibility for my country to become the member of this very organization.  So what we see as of today’s achievement is a very significant one. And the first component is very, very important with which a clear affirmation of the Bucharest decisions is there, in the decision, which means that the fact that Alliance clearly commits itself to the decision in a way with which Georgia is seen to become a member of this organization.

But beyond that, we see the commitment to the process with which we can attain that goal.  And here, commitment from Georgian side will be very important. 

But it's very important for us to see that NATO as an organization commits itself with maximized efforts to assist Georgia that we're successful on this way and then the way how the commission is being asked to play a central role so that Georgia is well assisted in this process with the annual programmes with which reforms will run effectively, we're confident that the progress will be substantial along the way as well and then we will do everything necessary so that we're in line fully with the membership criteria over the time and my country becomes effectively a member of this organization.   The main aim that we have, which supersedes all other aims that one can think that we could have had prior to that in terms of the processes with which we could have become member of this organization.

Today's discussion was very fruitful, very reassuring to Georgia.  We had a very firm commitment from the members of the Alliance and from the Alliance in unity as well, that the effort will be continued to make sure that we don't accept established status quo, but then make steps so that we alter it for positive changes with which further implementation of the ceasefire agreement needs to be sought.  And at the same time, transparency needs to be brought into the regions with which sustainable security can be maintained.  And then the good progress for the development of my country and then confidence building measures with the regions of Georgia and South Ossetia and Abkhazia can be well conducted.  And this reassuring support is an important factor that we see from the Alliance coming very firmly.  Thank you.

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesperson):  We have two questions in the front row there and there.

Q:  Thank you (Inaudible) Mister Secretary General, can you clarify the communique's 19th point where it is written down that MAP still remains one of the obligatory step for Georgia?  NATO-Georgia Commission and this new programme, national annual programme is... is NATO's offer instead of MAP or MAP still remains one of the obligatory steps which Georgia has to make on the way of membership. 

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  As I said yesterday, the decision of yesterday implies that MAP has not evaporated. So as you read in the communiqué, MAP is still there.  At the same time, we're going to beef up the NGC and elements in the NGC like the annual programmes we're going to build are of course and should be seen in the framework of the ever closer relationship between NATO and Georgia.  But MAP has not evaporated.

TKESHELASHVILI:  I'm not in a better position to interpret the decision of NATO than you Mister Secretary General.  But then at the same time, I mean it's clear from the text that there is... decision is given in such a way which contains prejudgment or prejudice to the way with which an issue of MAP can in the future be decided; which means that support and commitment to the process of integration of Georgia in NATO with the way with which Commission will be strengthened gives an ample opportunity to be well effective in our dynamic of integration into the NATO, without any prejudgment or prejudice to the issue what could be the role of MAP in the future potentially for our country, or for other countries again aspiring to become members of this organization.

APPATHURAI:  Next question is there.

Q:  (Inaudible)  Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty.   Mister Secretary General, communique stressed Georgia's achievement progress.  It was understandable two years ago.  But since August war when a lot of badly changed economical, social and political landscape in Georgia , where is the progress there in Georgia?  Which kind of progress you stressed and what is the shortcoming for Georgia toward NATO?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  Well, I think one can conclude that despite the crisis and the war in August, we have seen and we are seeing a lot of progress in Georgia.  That doesn't mean that things remain to be done.  We discussed those elements about the media, about judicial reform, about further defence reform.  But I think nobody can deny that much progress has been made, as you see also in the communiqué.  So I mean...  and that is independent from the consequences of the August conflict in Georgia.  So again, the balance of progress is a good balance. 

But as I said yesterday NATO membership at the end of the day is not a concession by NATO.  There is an interest for NATO, of course, by definition as well if NATO enlarges.  I mean this is not something of a gift. That's not the way it works.  So Georgia needs to continue its reform process.  And what are we going to do in the NATO-Georgia Commission, and that did not exist before August, there you have a point.  The result of the August war was indeed the establishment of the NATO-Georgia Commission.  That Commission will now be the key focus.  And we didn't have that before where in the framework of which Georgia will continue its reform process which is needed and necessary and where NATO will channel... through which NATO will channel its assistance to Georgia.

TKESHELASHVILI:  And all I can add is that when we speak about or admit any progress in this direction it's a credit that can be given for the efforts of the government of Georgia and for the people of Georgia with the way with which this progress is achieved.  But the way a foreign country while invading a sovereign country like Georgia impacts its own development, cannot be held as a bad misconduct so to say of the government itself.  But rather vice-versa we have seen already from NATO very clearly commitment right after the cession of hostilities with very concrete programmes of assistance.  So that we overcome quickly negative impacts of war and then in that are effective in putting fully back on track our country in our economic development, further democratic development of our country, and then further development and recovery of our security forces as well in a way.

APPATHURAI:  Next question is here and then...

Q:  Monsieur le Secrétaire général, c'est (Inaudible) Today.  Hier, quand vous avez parlé de la relation avec la Russie, la reprise du dialogue avec la Russie, vous avez parlé des conditions.  Est-ce que l'avenir de l'Ossétie du Sud et l'Abkhazie, l'Ossétie du Sud et l'Abkhazie, ça sera une condition pour continuer le dialogue avec la Russie?  Quelles sont les conditions exactes pour continuer le dialogue avec la Russie?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  Je ne peux pas vous répondre sur les conditions.  Les conditions primordiales bien sûr est ce que les Russes acceptent et disent "oui".  Mais j'ai des indications positives sur cela.  J'ai dit "gradué", "gradué".  On ne va pas...  Ce n'était pas la décision des ministres d'hier.  On ne va pas conditionner la reprise des contacts avec les Russes.  Ça va se passer.  Ça va se passer aux sessions informelles, je souligne "informelles", du Conseil OTAN-Russie.  Et après, certains et quelques contacts informels, on va évaluer.  C'est aussi une part de décision des ministres si on pourrait continuer à un autre niveau.  Ça veut dire les réunions formelles du Conseil OTAN-Russie.  C'est alors "gradué". 

Et en plus, vous savez que j'ai, comme Secrétaire général de l'OTAN, j'ai maintenant un mandat des ministres des Affaires étrangères de l'OTAN pour explorer les possibilités de reprendre les contacts sur le niveau politique entre l'OTAN et la Russie.  Mais on ne va pas conditionner ça avec toutes sortes d'éléments, y inclus les éléments que vous avez mentionnés. 

APPATHURAI:  Next question is there.

Q:  Pascal Mallet, Agence France Presse, ma question s'adresse aussi bien au Secrétaire général que Mme Tkeshelashvili. Je répète, puisqu'on vient de parler de l'Abkhazie et de l'Ossétie du Sud, pour l'OTAN comme pour la Géorgie, est-ce que vous faites de la reconquête de la souveraineté géorgienne sur ces deux territoires, et le départ entier des troupes russes une condition ou une clause "sine qua non" pour que la Géorgie puisse entrer dans l'OTAN?  La question se pose aussi bien à la Géorgie qu'à l'OTAN.

TKESHELASHVILI:  Well, I think that we're at the very initial stage of the start... sorry... of Geneva Talks with which will seek very firmly concrete outcomes from this process as much as we will seek a very good dynamics and progress on our way of integration into the NATO.  So I think it's very early as of now to speak about conditions of the type with which it's very hard to predict what could be the outcomes of the first process in a way with which in short time period one can assess firmly what that deliverable could be.  So I think it's time to see how this progress is made and along the way, to evaluate what could be better positions in a way with which how that can become a condition or cannot become a condition of the type with which you described this question.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  Deux éléments.  D'abord, c'est important bien sûr que les Russes vont suivre tous les éléments, je répète, tous les éléments des accords signés par le président Saakachvili et Medvedev, les accords d'août... d'août dernier.  Alors, c'est aussi pour l'OTAN un élément très important.  Mais je pourrais être l'écho du ministre Saakachvili que ce sont les pourparlers à Genève, ce n'est pas pour l'OTAN de mener ce débat.  Et pour le premier élément, la première partie de votre question, c'est... c'est par conséquent beaucoup trop tôt d'y répondre d'un sens définitif.

APPATHURAI:  The last question is here.

Q:  VPA, the German Press Agency.  Secretary General, if I understand it correctly, I think in para. 3 or 4 of the communiqué ministers declare their readiness to enter into discussions within the framework of the OSCE on perceptions of security which probably means the Medvedev proposals on Euro-Atlantic security architecture.  Does it mean that you think these proposals are interesting enough for NATO as well to perhaps offer a completely new basis for security and stability in Europe?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  No, the... the... answer certainly to the last part of your question is "No" because it was discussed yesterday.  It was discussed also during a so-called transatlantic dinner we had yesterday night in the Egmont Palace here in Brussels between the EU and the NATO foreign ministers. And the upshot of that discussion was that we're quite happy with the security structure as it exists in Europe. That might surprise some but we're quite happy with it.  I think it's a good security structure.  And it is also crystal clear that that present security structure should remain intact. That NATO is NATO and there is of course not a shimmer of a chance that ever in whatever discussion NATO could or would be negotiated away.  That's of course totally out of the question. 

Now, if you ask me about the Medvedev proposals, I think there is much clarification necessary and needed.  I have heard the Russian president made a few speeches in Evian in France and elsewhere.  But I think a lot of questions remain. What the present Medvedev proposals exactly entail, what they are.  Because as I said we have the OSCE; we have the Helsinki agreements; we have the Paris Charter; we have the Istanbul commitments.  So we have a structure of which I cannot imagine that the Allies will negotiate it away.

On the other hand, and that is I think, let's say, the background of your question, if the Russian president...   And I think we do agree that the OSCE is the right forum for that.  If the Russian president has proposals to make, and I think it should be a bit more concrete than at least I know now on a future European security structure, then I think that the Allies are ready to discuss those proposals.  But again, I would very much appreciate to see a bit more substance. What will... what will most probably happen then, that would be my personal assessment, that during the OSCE meeting at the end of this week, these proposals might well be picked up; that at a certain stage there might be a discussion in the OSCE, mark my words, there might be a discussion at the OSCE.  I do not know.  I am not the OSCE Chairman in office, that is the Finnish and next year the Greek Foreign Minister.

But it is also crystal clear that the NATO Allies, and we are here in NATO headquarters, the NATO Allies, of course, will have something to say about their position, the NATO position in that debate.  And you know, there's a NATO caucus in the OSCE. So in that regard it is very relevant for the NATO Allies on whose behalf I can speak as well. 

But again, on balance, I think it is important that we get more substance on the Russian... the Russian proposals.  To give you one example, what is the role of the CFE Treaty in those Russian proposals?  Which... Has Russian side suspended CFE.  What is...?  Another question, what will be the notion of territorial integrity.  I'm standing next to the Foreign Minister of Georgia.  And I can imagine a number of other questions in that regard.  But let's first ask questions and see where we are.  Because the bottom-line is, excuse me, if President Medvedev is making proposals I think there should be a place to enter into some form of engagement with the Russians on these.