Joint press point

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili

  • 14 Nov. 2012 -
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  • Last updated: 14 Nov. 2012 18:15

Prime Minister, it is indeed a great pleasure to welcome you to NATO.

The fact that you have chosen to make Brussels the destination of your first official visit shows the importance you attach to our relationship.

And the Prime Minister and I have had a very positive and very constructive meeting this morning.

Georgia is a close and committed partner for NATO. You recently doubled your contribution to our mission in Afghanistan. You have already joined the planning process for the NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces after 2014. You aspire to join our Alliance. And Prime Minister, I welcome your confirmation that your government is committed to that aspiration.

I can assure you that NATO is committed to close relations with Georgia. Our cooperation is strong, and our dialogue is on the highest level. My meetings this week with you, Prime Minister, and with President Saakashvili are proof of that. And I look forward to a meeting of foreign ministers in the NATO-Georgia Commission, less than a month from now.

Georgia’s elections in October were free and fair and lived up to democratic standards. I encourage all parties in Georgia to keep up that momentum and consolidate democratic progress. That includes full respect for the rule of law, the constitution and democratic standards.

But the true test of a democracy is the ability of the different actors to work together for the good of the country. As I told President Saakashvili on Monday, I strongly urge both of you, Prime Minister, to cooperate and make co-habitation work, in full respect for the constitution, in the months to come. This is vital for the Georgian people, and for Georgia’s future.

As we made clear at the NATO Summit in Bucharest in 2008 and in subsequent Summits, Georgia will become a member of NATO. We are committed to your Euro-Atlantic future and to Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

But Membership will take more work, and more reforms. And it will take constructive cooperation between all branches of government. So I encourage all parties in Georgia to keep consensus on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic policies and work together to pursue the necessary reforms and meet the highest democratic standards. And I am confident that Georgia’s democracy will pass that test.

Bidzina Ivanishvili (Prime Minister of Georgia): Welcome everybody. Thank you very much, indeed, Mr. Secretary General, for the very interesting meeting. We really had a very interesting meeting today and in the meeting, once again, we witnessed that the Georgian population actually passed a very important test through the elections which were held on October 1, 2012, and we made very good message to the international community and to the NATO member states and the (inaudible) states.

Accordingly, the ministerial which will be held in December, the NATO member states ministerial, the foreign ministerial, and the working group is going to start the meeting, so we also have the representatives there. And Mr. Rasmussen has already promised us that very special focuses will be made on it. That Georgia really passed a very important examination; I mean again, the election, and in December the ministerial we will demonstrate the great achievement, the progress which Georgia achieved through passing this examination.

We expressed our regret because in the past moment of the Military Committee we checked(?)... to be held in Georgia, but Mr. Secretary General assured me that in the nearest future this question will be generally discussed and we will be able to host them in Tbilisi.

I myself, personally, invited the North Atlantic Council to Georgia, which will speed up and accelerate our integration into the NATO. And of course, it will be very interesting for us.

We also, from both sides, expressed our regret regarding the developments which developed in Georgia recently. I mean, some arrests and the detentions and you know very well that I offered the Secretary General to participate in any forums, through any possibility to have this process very transparent and understandable for everybody, in the clear, and with great pleasure, Mr. Rasmussen, actually expressed his absolute confidence to us and he did not think it necessary, in fact, so he expressed his confidence to... that was his message with this regard. That was his position.

In my conversation I underlined, and I again would say, that NATO is, of course,  not only military, but also the political structure and accordingly we will do our utmost in order in both sides, in the military component to have the actually interoperable forces of Georgia, and those on the other hand to develop the democratic institutions.

The problems we witnessed a few days ago, it was due to the lack of the democracy during the previous government, because instead of building the true democratic institutions they confined themselves with the façade and (inaudible...) both in the society and within the armed forces.

I assured the Secretary General, and those who sent him for all the contribution NATO, he personally, as well as the NATO structures made for the development of Georgia, and I also expressed my hope that in the future we also receive the similar assistance. We, the new government of Georgia, we do our best in order to make clear every step made by us, make it clear for the NATO member states, for the international community, and it clear for the Secretary General and the new government will do its best to achieve the goals which we already plan and to become, in the nearest future, the full-fledged member of NATO.

Thank you very much, indeed.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson): Please introduce yourselves and say who your question is addressed to and we'll start with the Georgia National Broadcast.

Q: Thank you. Georgian Public Broadcaster, (inaudible...). As we have Georgian translator may I ask a question in my native language?

The Public Broadcaster, the question is to the Secretary General. In Prague you made your declaration which was about the arrest of the political opponents and your concern about it, after the resolution, which the NATO Parliamentary Assembly adopted in Prague. We have today such a situation, the financial revision is now in my television, in the Public Broadcaster, and the high-level officials of the ministry of defence also are prosecuted and some sources actually from that they will start the prosecution against the head of the state security service.

What is your reaction with this regard, and do you think that this situation, the cohabitation, is going well? Today you met Mr. Prime Minister, what would be your first assessment in this regard?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen (NATO Secretary General):  Indeed, I raised this issue with the Prime Minister and I made my position clear. I am concerned if these trials are perceived to be politically motivated that would be damaging for the image of the country and the government. Even if it's not true. That's my concern. This is the reason why it is of utmost importance to stress that such trials must take place in accordance with the basic principles of rule of law, ensure full transparency, ensure due process. That's what I have made clear.

The Prime Minister has assured me that will be the case. And based on that, I also have to say, and really stress, we're not going to interfere with ongoing trials. We have confidence that they will be conducted without political interference and live up to the fundamental principles of rule of law.

Bidzina Ivanishvili : So, if you would, yes, we really discussed this issue and the concern which was expressed by Mr. Secretary General. It should not be the political persecution, and of course, we also have the same sense. And what he regrets we also regret for this development because the new government had to pursue these kind of detentions.

We would like to assure, once again, the Secretary General and the wider society that it was not the reason, the political persecution. Of course, we know that people try to put the shade of political persecution. You know that the old government tries to do it to make it as a political order. But it's their attempt, it's their problem. It will not be so easy to prove it, because all the trials will be very transparent and absolutely accessible to everybody.

Please, the journalists, don't try to find any discrepancies between our positions. We both, the Secretary General and I, we really have one and the same position. We have not conducted any political persecution. Neither inside of Georgia, nor outside of it. We don't want anybody to think that we do something like that.

I promised already, and I again say, there will not be any selective justice in Georgia, but we will administer the justice.  Whoever breaches the law, they will be punished.

Q: Bonjour, je suis journaliste géorgienne, Télévision Maestro TV.  Mais je vais poser la question en Georgien; et sera après la traduction. My name is (inaudible...) from the TV company Maestro. I have the following question: Mr. Secretary General, you also talked in Prague about the concern with the developments, recent developments in Georgia. Maybe you've seen this kind of the... for instance the Facebook, because the protests from this site of Georgia have reached in the thousands about your concern.

I really want to ask because it is the question from my countrymen, what did you mean within the concern? Why you expressed this kind of concern? It was assessing Georgia as a first criticism against the newly-elected government.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: I have expressed concerns out of a positive interest in seeing progress in Georgia's relationship with NATO and other Euro-Atlantic institutions. And as I have explained, my concern is that it may be damaging if prosecutions, if trials, are perceived to be politically motivated. And I think the Prime Minister...

Bidzina Ivanishvili : I agree with you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: ...shares my concern. That's why we have a mutual interest in stressing the need for full compliance with the fundamental principles of rule of law to ensure that possible trials are conducted in a transparent manner, without political interference, and ensure all involved due process. That's what I have stressed, and I think the Prime Minister agrees.

Bidzina Ivanishvili : Yes, I agree with you. Yes. Sure.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: So there is no disagreement on that.

Bidzina Ivanishvili : Sure.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: And let me add to that, the Prime Minister has kindly offered that we could establish certain specific mechanisms to actually follow these processes. I think the Prime Minister wanted to assure me...

Bidzina Ivanishvili : Yes.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: ...of his clear commitment to the principles of rule of law.

I gave the Prime Minister the following answer. Prime Minister, I really appreciate your commitment to these fundamental principles, but let me assure you that we don't need new mechanisms, new institutions. We have the NATO-Georgia Commission, I have a special representative who is in a constant dialogue with the Georgian authorities. Based on the Prime Minister's clear assurances I don't see a need for new institutions to follow the development. I have confidence that the government will live up to these high principles.

And let me add to that: I really appreciate the active, the very active debate on my Facebook site, but let me kindly ask the Georgian participants to debate in one of our official languages—English or French—because with all respect I'm not able to read and understand Georgian. I would like to, but I can't, so it would be helpful if you could exchange views and discuss in either the English or French language.

But I'm a strong supporter of the freedom of expression. That also includes my Facebook site.

Bidzina Ivanishvili : Until the Georgian language becomes the international language let's address to the Secretary General in English or in French, please.

Once again, I really would like to assure you there are no discrepancies between our positions. We all are concerned about the developments. Of course, it is concerning the issue what has been actually developed in Georgia, but we have very strong and very proper focuses.

Oana Lungescu : One last question, NPR.

Q: Teri Schultz with National Public Radio and CBS News. That would have been a good, light place to end your press conference, sorry. But I'm going to have to move to more serious issues again.

The situation of General John Allen, whom we all know very well here in the U.S. Will the fact that he's currently under investigation affect operations in Afghanistan at all, with him continuing on as commander? And are you concerned that even the fact that he is linked in any way to a scandal like this will affect his credibility as a leader if he does, in fact, come back to be a SACEUR and are you concerned that he won't, in fact, be confirmed as SACEUR?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: I have three points to make. Firstly, I have full confidence in General Allen. Full confidence. And next, I really appreciate his leadership. He has demonstrated an outstanding leadership as commander of our ISAF mission in Afghanistan. He has contributed to making significant progress in Afghanistan. And finally, this is not a NATO issue. This is an issue to be handled by the United States authorities.

Q: (Inaudible...)...

Oana Lungescu : Thank you very much. I'm afraid there's not enough time...

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: No, I have full confidence in General Allen. And pending U.S. procedures, I also look forward to continuing working with him, if, according to the U.S. procedures, he is approved and confirmed as a new SACEUR.

Oana Lungescu : Thank you very much, indeed.

Bidzina Ivanishvili : Thank you.