Georgia passed the litmus test of holding successful parliamentary elections, and so NATO will seek to take "steps forward" in the alliance's relationship with the country, said James Appathurai, NATO’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, on a visit to Tbilisi Thursday. Appathurai met with incoming Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, as well as Giga Bokeria, secretary of the National Security Council and Grigol Vashadze, acting Foreign Minister in the outgoing government. Reports Civil.ge:
He said that ongoing democratic transfer of power following the elections “is the sign and a demonstration of Georgia becoming a normal country.” He also said that this change was also made possible because of reforms ongoing in Georgia over the years.
“The Secretary General communicated this both to President Saakashvili and Mr. Ivanishvili that elections were and are a litmus test and a very important part of this test has been passed,” Appathurai said while speaking at a news conference after meeting with Vashadze...
“The Allies have not yet discussed how they wish to characterize either the elections or what will come next… The Allies did say that these elections were an important test; it’s a test, that in my view and I know in Secretary General’s view, is being passed; they will wish to recognize that and then we will see how they characterize whatever steps forward we might envision in the relationship,” he said.
But Appathurai said that it's not yet clear what specific steps NATO might take with respect to Georgia. After his meeting with Appathurai, Ivanishvili called on the alliance to take specific, practical steps:
“We have passed a very interesting test – elections; that served for NATO to determine our prospects [for NATO membership]; we have done it. I reminded [Appathurai] that we’ve done that and now they [NATO] on their part should take more principled and practical steps for Georgia to really become NATO member in the near future,” Ivanishvili said.
It'll be interesting to see how Russia responds to this. Ivanishvili, of course, has made one of his foreign policy priorities improving relations with Russia -- he made one small step in that direction by saying that he thinks Georgia should participate in the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, against the will of President MIkheil Saakashvili. So will it be possible for Ivanishvili to do both that and get closer to NATO? Appathurai addressed that question a bit saying that NATO-Russia and Georgian-Russian relations were “very complicated” issues, Civil.ge reported:
“But bottom line for us… [is] that good relationship between NATO and Georgia and good relationship between NATO and Russia is not a zero-sum game... Better NATO-Russia relations are good for Georgia and so we think we can do both at the same time, we should do both at the same time and I know that outgoing government has always worked towards better relations with Russia… I know that incoming administration has stressed their focus on improving relations with Russia, including in the context of NATO accession,”
“So frankly, I think, we’re all on the same page. But the bottom line for NATO is only NATO countries decide on accession,” Appathurai said.