NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has reaffirmed his support for Georgia’s bid to become a member of the Western military alliance.
“Georgia will become a member of NATO, provided of course that Georgia fulfils the necessary criteria,” the NATO chief said during a press conference in Tbilisi on Friday, a Press TV correspondent reported.
“We stand ready to assist you in your endeavors to reform your society and fulfill these criteria,” Rasmussen added.
NATO’s support for Georgia membership, however, was overshadowed by reports of the deaths of four Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan that came shortly after Rasmussen’s arrival in Tbilisi.
With a total of five soldiers killed in action, questions were raised about the scale of Georgia’s operations in Afghanistan.
“We need cooperation with NATO. We need to be in Afghanistan. This [is] also part of obligation of us. But the question is how and how many Georgian soldiers should be involved in this mission,” said Irakli Sesiashvili, a military expert.
Currently, 950 Georgian troops serve as part of the US-led International Security and Assistance Force in some of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan. This presence is widely seen as a way to boost Georgia’s chances of becoming a NATO member.
While many believe the public opinion about joining NATO would change following the casualties, Georgian officials made clear to Rasmussen that their country remains committed to the Afghanistan mission, and to joining his alliance.