German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Georgia can still join NATO, despite a recent conflict with Russia over breakaway South Ossetia, according RIA Novosti.
Merkel, who visited Tbilisi for talks with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Sunday, said support for Georgia`s bid to join NATO was laid out in documents produced at the military alliance`s summit in Bucharest in April.
"They contain, which is rather unusual, a very firm pledge that both Ukraine and Georgia will become NATO members," Merkel said. "The first review of the situation will take place in December."
NATO declined at the Bucharest summit to grant both Georgia and Ukraine a Membership Action Plan (MAP) which would have set the two former Soviet republics on the road to membership of the 26-nation military alliance. Germany and France expressed concern that doing so would unnecessarily antagonize Russia. Georgia`s "frozen" conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Georgian breakaway republic, were also cited. The countries had received strong U.S. backing for their bids.
Commenting on the recent conflict in Georgia, Merkel said it was a priority for Russian troops to pull out from the South Caucasus state as soon as possible.
"I expect the quick withdrawal of Russian troops, which, according to information at my disposal, has not so far been conducted the way we expected," Merkel said.