NATO to offer assistance to Georgia, review ties with Russia

Other News Materials 18 August 2008 21:40 (UTC +04:00)

NATO foreign ministers will offer political and practical support to Georgia and will review the alliance's ties with Russia following its "excessive use of force" in the Caucasus, officials in Brussels said Monday, dpa reported.

At Tuesday's emergency meeting, which was requested by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, ministers will also call on Russia to observe the ceasefire and respect Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity by withdrawing its troops.

And while Georgia's Membership Action Plan is not formerly on the agenda, ministers will be expected to reaffirm their view that the the former Soviet republic should eventually be invited to join the transatlantic alliance, as agreed by NATO leaders at their April summit in Bucharest, officials said.

The allies will send out a "very clear message of solidarity" to Georgia and will agree on "a package of measures to assist and support" Georgia following its conflict with Russia, said NATO deputy spokeswoman Carmen Romero.

Practical measures under consideration include sending a team of civilian experts to Georgia to help assess the damage caused to the country's critical infrastructure, energy supplies, transport sector, health care and food distribution.

Ministers will also discuss ways of helping deliver humanitarian aid, strengthen its insitutions and get Georgia's air traffic system up and running again.

Another area of cooperation could involve helping rebuild Georgia's badly damaged military forces and infrastructures, senior US officials said.

Rice will also ask ministers to discuss the long-term impact of Russia's military intervention in the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on its relationship with the alliance.

"Our objective is to work together with Russia but that's got to be based on Russia respecting the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours, and not using its military force to impose its will on those countries," senior US officials said.

Since 2002, NATO and Russia have been speaking and cooperating with each other through the so-called NATO-Russia Council (NRC).

But no high-level NRC meetings have been convened since the outbreak of the conflict - and none are likely to take place while Russian troops continue to have a foothold in Georgia.

"We are not seeking to freeze or break off the NRC but neither can we have business as usual with Russian forces on the ground," US officials said.

At Tuesday's meeting, ministers were also due to be briefed by their Finnish colleague, Alexander Stubb, whose country currently chairs the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE). The OCSE currently has about 200 observers in Georgia.