Georgian president announces new US military training programme

Georgian State Television Channel 1, Tbilisi
4 Nov 04

President Mikheil Saakashvili has announced a major new US-funded
training programme for Georgian troops. Speaking at a joint briefing
in Tbilisi on 4 November with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop
Scheffer, Saakashvili said that the programme would focus on
peacekeeping operations and involve double the number of Georgian
troops trained by US instructors so far. He also said that Georgia was
"getting closer to NATO" but stressed his willingness to work closely
with Russia on security issues. He refused to speculate on a possible
date for NATO membership, just saying that it would happen "much
quicker than many people expect". De Hoop Scheffer said that Georgia
would have to travel "a difficult and long and winding road" to NATO
membership. The following is the text of the briefing, broadcast live
by Georgian TV; subheadings have been inserted editorially:

Presenter NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer arrived in
Tbilisi a few hours ago. He and President Saakashvili have begun a
joint briefing at the State Chancellery, which we now bring you live.

New US military training programme

Saakashvili, broadcast begins in mid-sentence The approval of the NATO
programme IPAP, Individual Partnership Action Plan happened much
earlier than we expected and I think this was recognition by NATO of
the progress Georgia has made in reforms and development in recent
months.

You know that Georgia is actively participating in the antiterrorist
coalition. We are taking part in peacekeeping operations. Our soldiers
are in Kosovo, we have a contingent in Afghanistan and we are
increasing the number of our people in Iraq.

We believe that not only are we making use of international security
but we are also contributing to it.

At the same time, precisely because we are involved in peacekeeping
operations, the USA has announced a major new training programme for
Georgians to be involved in peacekeeping operations. This programme,
in terms of the number of people involved, is double what Georgia has
had so far.

On the day before his re-election President Bush wrote a letter to
Georgia, and in the coming months the main nucleus of our army will be
finally formed with the help of American instructors and drawing on
the best international experience.

At the same time, we of course want to work with all our neighbours,
especially Russia. We have many proposals for working with Russia in
the security sphere. I should say we are very open in this respect.

We do not intend to allow the establishment of new foreign bases in
Georgia. We intend to set up international cooperation mechanisms
which provide for a reformed Georgian army, together with large-scale
integration into the Euro-Atlantic area, being the main element of
stability in the region.

Switches to English Again, I would like to welcome the
secretary-general here. I think we are bringing, getting closer to
NATO. Switches back to Georgian We are truly getting closer to
NATO. Do not ask when, whether in one, two or three years, because you
will certainly not get an answer to this question. It would be
inappropriate. But it will be much quicker than many people expect.
And it is possible I will still be in office when this happens.

"Long and winding road" to NATO membership

De Hoop Scheffer, in English Thank you. It gives me great pleasure to
be here. The president made one mistake: We have met four times,
because the president forgot Davos where we met for the first
time. But, I guess we - all jokes apart - it's a great pleasure to be
here in Georgia, to be back in Georgia, I can say, for the first time
in my new capacity as NATO Secretary-General.

As you know, the NATO summit in Istanbul at the end of June decided to
focus on the Caucasus and Central Asia. In the meantime, I have
nominated a special representative for the Caucasus and Central
Asia. You see him there, against the wall, it's Mr Bob Simmons whom
you will see frequently in the region. And, on top of that, there will
also be a liaison officer who will first come to Tbilisi.

The president has already mentioned the very important Individual
Partnership Action Plan, the IPAP document which was accepted by the
NATO Council ten days ago. That marks, again, a very important moment
in the relationship between Georgia and NATO. And, as I discussed with
the president, it will now be a question of doing homework, as we say
in school, and seeing that everything which is in the IPAP will so be
implemented. And then NATO can assist Georgia in this respect, NATO
will assist Georgia.

NATO is, of course, ladies and gentlemen, very much sure of and
respects the territorial integrity of Georgia. NATO sincerely hopes
that solutions will be found for the problems, the political problems
in Georgia affecting this territorial integrity. NATO values and
respects Georgia's participation in different peacekeeping operations,
as the president has already mentioned. And NATO follows, of course,
with great interest - and this is also in the IPAP - the fundamental
defence restructuring Georgia has entered into.

I am a realist and I am an optimist. I'm a realist because I know that
- if we discuss Georgia's NATO membership - this will be a difficult
and long and winding road. But I am optimistic as well because I see
an enormous drive in Georgia, with the government and with the
Georgian people, to fulfil the ambitions Georgia has vis-a-vis
Euro-Atlantic integration. This is exactly what the heads of state and
government of NATO said in the communique in Istanbul at the end of
June.

So, it was a great pleasure to speak to the president. I know how
committed he is to the other vital elements of the North Atlantic
alliance since its birth, and that is human values, human rights, and
respect for democracy. Because, let me make it very clear, I've not
come here and NATO hasn't come here to compete with any other country
or to compete with any other organization. I've come here because NATO
has an open door for any nation, including Georgia, who wants to share
and defend those same values which have always been at the core of
NATO. So, I end by saying: Let's get to work on the IPAP. Thank you
very much.

President Bush's re-election

Question, in English Natia Goksadze, Mze TV company. First of all,
thank you Mr Scheffer, you gave an exclusive interview to us
yesterday.

My first question to our president: How would you congratulate Mr
George Bush on his victory?

Saakashvili, in English I am going to call President Bush tonight and
congratulate him personally, but I have to underline that for us this
victory was important. He is a man of great principles and of great
understanding of complicated issues in our region and a personality
without whom fight against terrorism in this part of the world would
have hardly been possible.

Georgia has agreed to dramatically increase our presence in Iraq, to
take part in the UN protection mission. This is our contribution to
the fight initiated by President Bush against international terrorism
and against infiltration of all kinds of illegal activities in our
region. And I believe that President Bush, with respect to Georgia and
with respect to many other countries in this region, has very reliable
coalition partners. Certainly, these coalition partners, we are
rejoiced to see the re-election of the US president because we have
always found him also to be a very good partner and a very
understanding man, and very sophisticated one on the issues of the
region. That's my response.

Relations with Russia

Question, in English TV company Rustavi-2. Mr Secretary-General, Mr
President, Georgia has now its IPAP programme with NATO and this
programme includes the normalization of relations with Russia. How can
NATO assist Georgia to make Russia, push Russia to fulfil its
agreements? I mean the agreements in Istanbul from 1999, I mean make
Russia withdraw its military bases from Georgia.

De Hoop Scheffer, in English There can be no doubt that Russia has to
fulfill fully the commitments Russia entered into in 1999 in
Istanbul. NATO has a good relationship with the Russian Federation,
and the Russian Federation is very well informed about the NATO
position as I am stating it now. And, of course short break in
reception I very much hope that in the talks between the Russian
Federation and Georgia a solution will be found for these bases and
for these problems but, let's say, the fundamental opinion cannot be
any other than that Russia has to fulfill the Istanbul commitments.

Saakashvili, in English That's exactly the case where our position has
not changed. I mean we are firm. switches to Georgian It is quite
clear that all the treaties that have been concluded have to be
fulfilled by Russia and Georgia. We are ready to make very many
compromises with Russia but not a single compromise will be to the
detriment of Georgian territorial integrity, Georgian independence and
freedom of choice for the Georgian people, the population of Georgia,
all its ethnic groups. If someone has hopes that some kind of pressure
will make Georgia change its fundamental course, these hopes will not
be realized. But, at the same time, our fundamental course envisages
good relations with Russia as well.

No specific timescale for accession to NATO

Question, in English Giorgi Kepuladze, TV company Imedi. I have two
questions, two small questions to Mr Secretary-General. If Georgia
successfully fulfils IPAP, will we get MAP Membership Action Plan ,
for example, to 2006, the next NATO summit as heard ? One more
question -

Unidentified person, in English Unfortunately we don't have time for
more questions.

De Hoop Scheffer, in English OK, let me just say that I entirely agree
with what the president has just said. I'm not going to give dates. By
the way, I don't know there will be a NATO summit in 2006. I'm not
going to give dates because dates will, let's say, deviate our
attention from what should be done now, make IPAP into a success. And
I talked about Georgia's ambition and I know there is a tremendous
ambition and drive in the government and in society to make it work,
and NATO will assist and will help to make it work.

Unidentified person, in English Mr Scheffer, there is one more
question from the BBC, just the last question.

Question, in English Secretary-General, very briefly, can you just
reflect a little bit on what you hope to get out from your trip to the
Caucasus in general?

De Hoop Scheffer, in English First of all, as I said, bringing into
practice what the heads of state and government of NATO decided in
Istanbul. That means a focus on the region. And now in Georgia,
focusing on Georgia's ambitions, focusing on IPAP, focusing on the
reforms in Georgia, defence restructuring. I mentioned them in other
answers. I'll go to Armenia and Azerbaijan as well in the coming days,
tomorrow in fact, to see where they are in their relationship with
NATO, where they want to be in their relationship with NATO. Do not
forget every sovereign country is of course fully sovereign in
deciding itself where it wants to go vis-a-vis NATO. Some countries
have more ambition than others. I want to focus on this region, like
two weeks ago I was in Central Asia, because these regions
matter. These regions matter, they are of strategic importance, so
Georgia matters to NATO.

And on 9 December we'll have a ministerial meeting of the EAPC, the
Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and you can see my trip, of course,
also as a preparation for this ministerial meeting in Brussels.