Tbilisi – U.S. Ambassador-designate to Georgia, Richard Norland, outlined priority areas of U.S. cooperation with its “reliable partner”, Georgia, during a nomination hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 21, saying that upcoming elections would be “a very important litmus test” for Georgia’s NATO aspiration. [...]
He reiterated the U.S. support to Georgia’s NATO aspirations and said that the Alliance’s upcoming summit in Chicago would provide an opportunity “to highlight Georgia’s progress towards meeting membership criteria, as well as its significant partnership contributions.”
He stressed on importance of Georgia’s contribution to the Afghan operations, where “brave” Georgian soldiers operate without caveats in the Helmand province, noting that Georgia would become the largest non-NATO contributor to ISAF after it deploys an additional battalion in Afghanistan this fall.
Responding to Republican Senator Richard Lugar’s question about Georgia’s NATO integration, the Ambassador-designate said that the Alliance had already declared that Georgia would become a NATO member.
“So the issue really has to do [with] how and when,” Norland said. “There is no single path to NATO membership. As it stands now, I understand, the Annual National Program and the NATO-Georgia [Commission] are the primary mechanisms to which Georgia and the Allies are pursuing the issue of Georgia’s membership.”
He also said that “a lot of emphasis” was also placed on steps Georgia was already taking, including its contribution to the ISAF mission, defense reforms, as well as steps towards democratic and economic reforms.
“These are all part of the package that go[es] into meeting the criteria for NATO membership,” Norland said.
He said that “serious efforts” were being undertaken by the U.S. administration to use upcoming NATO summit in Chicago “to signal acknowledgment for Georgia’s progress in these areas and to work with the Allies to develop a consensus on the next steps forward.” … Full article
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