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Georgia should consider joining NATO without occupied territories, says former alliance chief

Former NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen has suggested that Georgia should launch a public dialogue about the possibility of joining the military alliance without its Russia-occupied regions of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) and Abkhazia, the Georgian press has reported.

“Georgia fulfills the necessary criteria to become a NATO member except those de facto Russian-occupied territories,” Mr Rasmussen told Georgian news agency Interpressnews, adding that the initiative would not mean the suspension of NATO’s non-recognition policy of the disputed territories.

However, NATO’s Article 5 which guarantees the collective defence of member states would cover only Tbilisi-controlled Georgian territory, and would only be extended to the rest of the country once the two regions are reintegrated.

Asked about how risky such a move could be for Georgia he said: “The question is, what is riskier? The current situation or new talks about future membership of NATO?”

In recent months the two pro-Russian regions have faced international criticism over the borderisation of their territory, as well as the illegal movement of Russian troops and a police standoff at the village of Khorchana in Tskhinvali.

“The European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Georgia is a choice made by the Georgian people and our government is loyal to this cause,” Giorgi Gakharia, Georgia’s newly appointed prime minister told Mr Rasmussen.

Photo: Government of Georgia