NATO meets with Eastern neighbours, little progress for Georgia, Ukraine
Georgia made little progress Thursday in seeking to revive its stalled efforts to join NATO, despite offering 900 troops for the alliance`s mission in Afghanistan, according to Xinhua.
Georgia`s bid to secure a "Membership Action Plan" setting it on a path to join NATO has been on hold since its short war with Russia on August 2008.
Russian-backed breakaway regimes strengthened their control of the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after the war.
In a meeting with Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze, NATO stressed its support for the South Caucasus nation`s territorial integrity and repeated a pledge that can one day become a member.
However, there was no concrete progress toward relaunching the membership process. Diplomats acknowledge that movement is unlikely while the border issue with Russia remains unresolved.
Despite the still tense standoff with Russia, Georgia has agreed to send 900 soldiers to reinforce NATO`s mission in Afghanistan in response to the United States` call for allies to join in a troop build up led by an extra 30,000 U.S. troops.
Unlike some established NATO members, Georgia has said its troops will have no "caveats" limiting their role and movement inside Afghanistan, meaning they may be sent to the most dangerous areas in the south and east of the country.
NATO foreign ministers opened two days of talks Thursday which sees them meet counterparts from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Afghanistan and a number of non-NATO contributors to the mission in Afghanistan.
Like Georgia, Ukraine received a message of support for political and military reforms from the NATO ministers, but made no real advance towards joining the alliance. The NATO ministers expressed concern at the slow pace of defense sector reforms and they urged Ukraine to ensure that next year`s elections meet international standards.
Under pressure from Russia, NATO leaders in early 2008 decided not to place two former-Soviet states on the track to membership.
"We are making pragmatic and realistic steps toward our goal: membership in the alliance," said Foreign Minister Petro Poroshenko. "We fully understand that this process can only be ensured by deep, true and democratic changes."
Meanwhile diplomats played down talk of differences with Moscow ahead of a first formal meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov since NATO froze relations in the wake of the Georgia war.
Russia`s ambassador to NATO Dmitri Rogozin said this week that the meeting and wider NATO-Russia relations were under threat because the alliance had refused to discuss a proposal from President Dmitri Medvedev on a new European security architecture.
However, NATO officials said the issues had been resolved and Ivanov would sign a number of documents with NATO to improve cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism.