NATO chief says Georgia still on track for NATO membership

Brussels - Georgia remains on track to become a member of NATO, in spite of the conflict with Russia rekindling East-West tension, the alliance's chief, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said Tuesday. De Hoop Scheffer also welcomed reports of a Russian end to hostilities in its neighbouring country, but stressed that this was only a first step.
"It is very important that all parties go back to the status quo as it existed on the 6th of August," he said, adding: "All forces must be in the position they had on that date."

The chief of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization spoke after an emergency meeting convened at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels. During the talks, ambassadors of the 26 member states were briefed by their Georgian colleague.

De Hoop Scheffer said the allies had deplored the "disproportionate use of force" by the Russians, they expressed their "solidarity" to Georgia and "reiterated in very strong terms the full respect for the territorial integrity of Georgia," including its breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

During the meeting, Georgia presented a number of specific request for assistance from NATO. Those requests "will be studied by the NATO allies on an urgent basis," the secretary general said, without providing further details.

Georgia is a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme and was promised full membership of the alliance at an unspecified later stage during a NATO summit in Bucharest held in April.

The prospect of the former Soviet republic joining the transatlantic alliance has infuriated Moscow.

Asked whether the conflict would jeopardize Georgia's chances of joining NATO, the secretary general said: "The Bucharest communique stands. ... That situation has not changed."

The NATO chief also said he would convene a NATO-Russia Council meeting "sooner rather than later."


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