Joint press conference
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of Georgia, Mamuka Bakhtadze
Prime Minister Bakhtadze,
It is a great pleasure to be back in Tbilisi.
And to visit Georgia during the NATO-Georgia exercise.
This is the second time that Georgia hosts this important event.
Demonstrating the ability of the Georgian armed forces to operate side-by-side with the Allies and other partners.
This exercise is hosted by the NATO-Georgia Joint Training Centre. Which has been working to strengthen your country’s defences since it was inaugurated back in 2015.
I visited many times and it’s always good to be back.
This time, I’m going to be visiting the NATO GEO exercise.
Georgia is a unique partner for NATO.
Last summer in Brussels all NATO leaders reconfirmed the Bucharest decision from 2008 that Georgia will become a member of NATO.
You are the largest non-NATO contributor to our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
You contribute to the NATO Response Force.
And the NATO-Georgia exercise this week demonstrates that we are stepping up our cooperation.
Georgia has made a lot of progress in important reforms.
Including strengthening Parliament’s role in overseeing the security sector.
And the reform of Georgia’s judiciary. I was glad to hear that these efforts will continue.
Your efforts to modernise the armed forces and to build more effective defence institutions have also been very impressive.
I also welcome your commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence.
And I congratulate Georgia for spending 20% of GDP on equipment and modernisation.
This strengthens your military.
And your contribution to regional security.
I welcome your efforts in all these areas.
And I encourage you to continue making full use of all the opportunities for coming closer to the Alliance.
And to prepare for membership.
NATO fully supports Georgia’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.
We call on Russia to end its recognition of the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and to withdraw its forces.
We also share your concerns about Russia’s military build-up in the Black Sea region.
That is why we are strengthening the cooperation between Georgian and NATO naval forces.
Why we are providing training for Georgian Coast Guard boarding teams.
And why NATO’s Maritime Command is cooperating with Georgia’s Joint Maritime Operations Centre.
And during our meeting today we discussed how we can increase our cooperation, not least between our maritime forces.
Prime Minister, let me thank you for your hospitality.
We will continue working together to prepare Georgia for NATO membership.
Georgia is a reliable contributor to our shared security.
And I look forward to continue working with you as Georgia moves closer to NATO.