TBILISI, DFWatch–A statement by a Georgian diplomat makes many ask whether the country’s foreign policy has changed.
Russian relations special envoy Zurab Abashidze was answering a warning by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov yesterday, that Russia will take measures if NATO takes practical steps to involve Georgia in the alliance.
Abashidze answered that they know well in Brussels, Moscow and Georgia that Georgia joining NATO is not on the agenda for today or tomorrow.
“NATO-Georgia cooperation is not directed at the goal of local NATO military infrastructure in Georgia,” he said, adding that Georgia is an independent state and has a right to cooperate with any international organization, including NATO.
“Georgia will never take a step which would harm regional security.”
The Foreign Ministry responded Wednesday that the issue of Georgia joining the alliance is dependent on a dialogue with NATO and a decision of its member states. A third party state cannot influence this process, the ministry said.
Sergo Ratiani, MP from the National Movement, told journalists on Wednesday that the government is doing its best to ‘please Russia’ and that Abashidze’s statement is harmful to the country’s security.
“It is a message to Russia that Georgia won’t take steps to join NATO,” he added.
Maia Panjikidze and Alexi Petriashvili, two former ministers who recently resigned, claimed that what Abashidze said signals a shift away from the policy of seeking membership in NATO.
Petriashvili claimed that the ‘substantive package’ which Georgia was promised at the alliance’s Wales summit last year contributes to the country joining the alliance and involves locating NATO infrastructure in Georgia.
He and Panjikide are members of the Free Democrats, a party which broke out of the government coalition a few months ago. They appealed to the president as head of state to make a public statement and state his position on this issue.
The two also addressed the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry for Euro Atlantic Integration and asked them to officially reject the content of what Abashidze said and state their commitment to joining NATO.
Maia Panjikidze called Abashidze’s statement ‘alarming’ and claimed that it ‘reveals the real position’ of the government – that joining NATO is not a priority of the government.