Georgia on path to NATO membership, says Merkel

ASA12422.jpgIn the latest round of shuttle diplomacy on the crisis in the Caucasus, German Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Tbilisi.

After talks with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, she said the Russians were not withdrawing from his country as quickly as hoped. The German leader, who met President Medvedev on Friday, urged Moscow to step up its pullback.

She also said Georgia was on track to eventual NATO membership, and that a decision taken at a recent summit of the military alliance remains valid. “That means that if Georgia so wishes, it is going to become a member of NATO,” she declared.

A key aspiration of the Saakashvili administration, Georgia’s future entry into NATO is fiercely opposed by Russia.

Moscow’s pullout pledges have yet to convince the Georgian leader.

“We need verification of (the) withdrawal and ceasefire, preferably by UN/OSCE monitors,” said Saakashvili.He added: “We need humanitarian aid reaching everybody, and then, in the end, we need peacekeepers taking over conflict areas.”

The Kremlin presented its intervention in Georgia as a peacekeeping operation, but Saakashvili has made clear he sees no part for Moscow’s forces in any future deployment to prevent further conflict

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