Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has invited controversy by stating that to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Georgia first has to solve its territorial conflicts.
“This is an understanding of our European [partners] and NATO member countries,” the Georgian Prime Minister noted at the Qatar Economic Forum on June 21.
Stressing his government’s motivation and “determination” to join the Alliance, he said, “it does not depend only on our desire to become a member of the NATO, it depends on the consensus of all member states” arguing that such consensus will not be forged while Georgia’s territories remain occupied by Russia.
While noting that more than 80% of Georgians support Euro-Atlantic integration, PM Garibashvili claimed the Georgian Dream played a key role in advancing on the Euro-Atlantic path.
“In fact, it was during my first premiership in 2015, when we opened… a joint training center with NATO, at the time Secretary General Stoltenberg was in Tbilisi, so this is a clear demonstration of our very close cooperation,” he argued.
PM evaded the question of the moderator, Bloomberg’s John Micklethwait on whether he trusted the Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said, “in 2008, we experienced a large-scale war, in the 1990s when Georgia regained independence, we had two wars in our breakaway regions in Abkhazia and [South] Ossetia… and Russians at that time, 30 years ago, were helping these separatist groups.”
“We fought against Russia three times over the last 30 years, so our government’s policy is to restore territorial integrity and sovereignty through peaceful negotiations,” he concluded.
He also said to have had “no contacts” with Putin on political matters since the Georgian Dream came to power “only economic, trade relationship exists”, he said.
Kakhaber Kemoklidze, a former security official and ex-Head of the Government Administration, now at For Georgia party, said the Prime Minister’s remarks were “damaging” and “a gift to Russia.”
Kemoklidze argued in a post on Facebook, that Georgia has to “[first] integrate fully into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures” and then try to resolve its territorial disputes. The membership, Kemoklidze said “will increase the pace of the country’s development and its attractiveness. It is the latter that will become the main determining factor in the restoration of territorial integrity.”
Former Deputy Foreign Minister and ex Vice Speaker of the Parliament, Sergi Kapandze also reacted in a tweet, saying that PM Garibashvili “basically says NO to NATO, claiming that Georgia first has to resolve territorial problems and then join.”