by NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Press Point with the Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, Tbilisi, Georgia
We have just had a very good discussion on NATO-Georgia relations. And in a few minutes we will be meeting in the framework of the NATO-Georgia Commission.
We discussed our mission in Afghanistan, where we have just marked a major milestone. Afghan troops and police are taking the lead for security nationwide. By the end of next year Afghan security will be fully in Afghan hands, and our ISAF combat mission will be completed.
We are now planning a different mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces after 2014. This will not be a combat mission. And I thank Georgia for its continued commitment to our joint endeavour.
I know Georgia has suffered tragic losses, especially in recent weeks. My thoughts are with the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives. And I wish a swift recovery to those who have been injured. We honour their service and their sacrifice.
Your soldiers are not in Afghanistan to gain Georgia’s entry into NATO. In Afghanistan, Georgian troops carry out a United Nations mandate as part of a coalition of 50 nations, the biggest coalition in recent history. And they are there to serve Georgia’s security interests. Because by depriving terrorists of a safe haven, we are also making our own countries more secure.
Prime Minister, since you took office, your government has shown a clear commitment to reforms. And to Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
For our part, we stand by our commitments. We decided at the Bucharest summit in 2008 that Georgia will become a NATO member, provided you meet the necessary requirements. That decision has not changed. That decision still stands.
We are working together with you to reform Georgia’s security forces, making them even more professional, and more accountable, so they are better able to meet any threats facing your country.
Georgia has already made remarkable reforms in many areas. The priority now is to continue implementing reforms. And to demonstrate that democracy is deep-rooted.
That means respect for human rights, including the rights of minorities. The violence we saw on the streets of Tbilisi last month, on the 17th of May, has no place in democratic societies. The right to gather peacefully and to freely express one’s opinion is fundamental to democracy. And for this reason, I commend you Prime Minister, for your powerful Independence Day address, where you strongly reaffirmed the importance of these values. To demonstrate that democracy is deep-rooted means also making political cohabitation work, showing a clear commitment to the rule of law. And ensuring that the presidential elections this year meet the very highest standards.
This is vital for Georgia’s democracy. It is vital for Georgia’s international credibility. And I can assure you that NATO will continue to stand with you on this road.