Nato yesterday reinforced its co-operation with crisis-hit Georgia in a move certain to exacerbate tensions with Russia, according to Financial Times.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato secretary-general, speaking in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, insisted the country remained on a "trajectory" towards fulfilling its hopes for eventual Nato membership. His comments came during a visit to Tbilisi by ambassadors from the alliance`s 26 members to inaugurate a Nato-Georgia commission, a political body designed to "accelerate Georgia`s Euro-Atlantic integration".

Nato hastily agreed to set up the commission last month after Russian troops invaded Georgia in response to a Georgian attack on the break-away territory of South Ossetia.

Lado Gurgenidze, prime minister of Georgia`s pro-west government, said it was "a very important step on the Euro-Atlantic path that the people of Georgia have chosen".

Nato reaffirmed support for Georgia`s "sovereignty and territorial integrity" and its backing for the peace plan agreed by presidents Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia to withdraw their forces to positions held before the conflict.

But the diplomatic push does little to counter the heavy Russian pressure Georgia faces following Moscow`s military action and its unilateral dismembering of Georgia by recognising the independence of South Ossetia and the second separatist territory of Abkhazia.

Mr de Hoop Scheffer rejected suggestions that the separation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was becoming permanent. But his remarks do little to change the fact that there is still no consensus in Nato on Georgia`s bid for a membership action plan, the first stage to membership. Nato ministers are to review Georgia and Ukraine`s action plan bids in December after failing to reach agreement in Bucharest.

Separately, Georgia will receive up to ?500m ($712m, £397m) in aid from the European Union between now and 2010 under an initiative aimed at resettling refugees and rebuilding infrastructure destroyed in last month`s Georgian-Russian war.

The European Commission announced the aid package as EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, approved plans to deploy 200 civilian observers in Georgia by October 1 to monitor an EU-brokered ceasefire. The ministers also appointed Pierre Morel, a French diplomat, as the EU`s special representative for Georgia.

Financial Times