Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili
MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI (President of Georgia): So, Mr. Secretary General, I will start, with your permission.
First of all, let me tell you how honoured we are to host you here in my country. I mean, it has been a very productive meeting. It has been a very constructive and friendly ambiance in that spirit there. I think we had a very good bilateral discussion. I think we've been hearing very well what NATO representatives were telling us. We also heard their praise for our reforms, but also we know that we have to do homework and proceed with further changes.
Certainly you already had the opportunity to interact with local and international press. I think we'll have this chance again.
You know, this is an important stage forward. We all the time hope that with NATO we can have further and further steps, further and further movements, deeper and deeper integration.
The last time around when your predecessor came here before, it was 2007, I think, and I wear a tie that he brought me, a NATO tie. I'm wearing it now. I was hoping you would bring me at least a jacket, NATO jacket, so that I would not stay out... we would not stay out in the cold without NATO jacket. We are still not asking for NATO umbrella, though, but jacket would do this time.
But in all seriousness, we really are excited that there is some progress, and I think you have very good representative for the region, James Appathurai, he's doing a magnificent job. We are very grateful to him for that, and you have the floor.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for these kind words. It is, indeed, a great pleasure to visit Georgia again. This time with the NATO Council. I have visited Georgia on several occasions, but this is my first visit to Batumi and we enjoy very much to be here and this afternoon we have had a very fruitful exchange of views.
It is almost eight years since the Rose Revolution. In that time a new and better Georgia has taken root, one built on freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. You have made impressive progress in areas such as freedom of speech, democratic development, and fighting corruption.
Those are achievements you are justly proud of. In those eight years Georgia has also become a valuable contributor to peace and stability beyond its borders. In Afghanistan you are already the second largest non-NATO contributor to our ISAF mission. By this time next year you will be the largest.
Your commitment is without caveats and without constraints, making the Georgian presence even more valuable for our commanders. You are a model member of ISAF and I thank you for it.
I also welcome your pledge not to use force in the dispute over the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. NATO's position is firm and clear. Those areas are part of Georgia and they remain part of Georgia. But we also see that the only way to resolve this conflict is through dialogue, not confrontation.
Georgia has come a long way in the past eight years, but there is still some way to go. In particular, to perfect your electoral reforms. That means having an electoral code which guarantees fair treatment for all candidates and all voters. It means creating a political culture of which respects and tolerates minority views, and it means guaranteeing freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom of the judiciary.
At our Bucharest Summit in 2008 we said that Georgia will become a member of NATO. I supported that decision then, and I support it now. That decision stands.
And as you progress on reforms you also progress on your path to NATO membership. And you have progressed significantly since NATO in 2008 decided that Georgia will become a member of this Alliance. You are closer than three years ago thanks to these reforms.
But we all know that to walk on the road to membership it takes commitment and it takes determination to press on with the reforms, but the road is worth taking. And every step of the way NATO is there to support you.
Q: (Speaking in Georgian...).
Mikheil Saakashvili: (President of Georgia): (Speaking in Georgian...).
Q: (Speaking in Georgian....)
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: The position is very clear. It was stated already in 2008 at the NATO Summit in Bucharest. And as you will recall we decided three years ago in Bucharest that Georgia will become a member of NATO.
On top of that we have established a special commission, a NATO-Georgia Commission, which serves as a framework for political consultation and practical cooperation. And our visit to Georgia is an example of high level political consultations within the framework of a NATO-Georgia Commission.
Each and every year Georgia produces an annual national program. It's assessed by NATO, the NATO Council, every year, and that annual program creates a framework for the reform process in Georgia.
So our position remains the same. Our door remains open. The Bucharest decision stands. Georgia will become a member of NATO.
Q: (Speaking in Georgian....)
Mikheil Saakashvili:(Speaking in Georgian....)
Q: (Speaking in Georgian....)
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes, we have discussed the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago. You can also see our visit to Georgia as part of the preparations for the Chicago Summit.
We have not finalized preparations. There's still six months to go. Many things can happen. We have not finalized the program, so no decision has been made yet, but as usual NATO allies will address Georgia at the Summit. The question is how, and we have discussed this today. We will continue our dialogue in the run-up to the Summit in Chicago.
I hope to see language, texts from the Chicago Summit that reflects the progress we have seen in reforms in Georgia, the progress we have seen in our relationship since we last met, in Lisbon a year ago. So the answer is, yes, we have discussed it, and we will continue our dialogue until May when the next Summit will be held in Chicago.
Mikheil Saakashvili:: Thank you. Thank you so much.