NATO spot for Georgia, Ukraine will take time: Latvian President

Latvian President Valdis Zatlers Friday reiterated support for putting Georgia and Ukraine on a pathway toward NATO membership, but said the road could still take some years, dpa reported.

Speaking towards the end of his first official trip to Washington, Zatlers said the two countries should have been offered a so-called Membership Action Plan (MAP) to join NATO at the trans-Atlantic alliance's summit in Bucharest this month.

"The United States and Latvia were the two more active advocates of giving MAP to Georgia and Ukraine," Zatlers said. "In my personal opinion that was the right time to do that."

NATO members were heavily split over offering the two former Soviet bloc states a formal path towards membership, in part due to Russia's opposition, and in the end only agreed that the Ukraine and Georgia would join at a later date.

Zatlers on Thursday met with President George W Bush and other US officials. The "fruitful" talks revolved around the NATO summit as well as Latvia's support for the war in Afghanistan.

The Latvian president said he was motivated to support Georgia and Ukraine's bid out of Latvia's own experience as a NATO member since 2004, which he argued had brought the country closer to Russia as well as Europe.

He added that even a pathway to membership would still mean some years before Georgia and Ukraine were ready to join.

"It's very important to have Georgia and Ukraine in NATO - when they will be ready," he said.

"It's not a one day, one year process. It's homework for these countries."

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