Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 17

Departing yesterday for the CIS summit in Moscow, President Eduard Shevardnadze formulated the following axiom of Georgia’s foreign policy: “Preservation of good-neighborly relations with Russia and the development of partnership relations with NATO are equally legitimate and logical.” Georgia is, in fact, actively pursuing these policies on parallel tracks. Her understanding of good-neighborly relations presupposes the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgian territory. On January 21, Georgia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that it had just sent another note to the Russian government, calling for talks to begin on the technical aspects of closing the Russian bases at Vaziani and Gudauta and repatriating the Russian troops from the two bases. Those measures were mandated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at its summit in Istanbul last November (see the Monitor, November 22, 1999, January 7; the Fortnight in Review, December 3, 1999, January 7). The Georgian note pointed to the urgency of starting the talks, so as to meet the July 1, 2001 deadline stipulated by the OSCE. The Russian side, however, has failed to respond to several Georgian notes since November.

In a parallel development, NATO’s assistant secretary-general for political affairs, Klaus-Peter Klaiber, paid a visit to Georgia on January 19-22. Klaiber discussed the evolving concept of security cooperation between NATO and non-member countries such as Georgia. The alliance considers cooperation with Georgia as important because the country borders on NATO member Turkey, Klaiber said. He, Shevardnadze and Parliament Chairman Zurab Zhvania agreed on the proposition that “the modern world does not admit any imperialistic ambitions or exclusive claims by any country on any region.”

NATO, Georgia and Azerbaijan have recently initiated, at Tbilisi’s suggestion, a joint working group on South Caucasus security issues. Klaiber conveyed a favorable assessment of the performance of the Georgian platoon in NATO’s peacekeeping operation in Kosovo, where the Georgian as well as the Azerbaijani unit serve with the Turkish contingent in the German sector. NATO’s Secretary-General George Robertson is expected to visit Georgia and Azerbaijan in the months ahead (Kavkasia-Press, Prime-News, Tbilisi Radio, January 20-24).