By Anna Saghabalian
U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Kurt Volker expressed an opinion on Friday that it is up to Armenia to decide how far it wants to take its relations with NATO.
“Our concern is: are these countries democratic, do they have strong market economy, are they working to root out corruption, do they build security in the neighborhood, are they working together with NATO to foster common security in the wider area? We are ready to work together with any of our partners as much as they choose to,” Volker said.
He said that no country is likely to receive an invitation for membership at the NATO summit in Riga on November 28. According to Volker, invitations for membership will be issued in 2008.
Speaking about Georgia, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary said: “We welcome Georgia’s aspirations to become a member of NATO.”
He reminded that in September Georgia was invited to ‘intensified dialogue’ with NATO. Yet, Volker admitted that much work still needs to be done on Georgia’s way to becoming a NATO member, in particular in terms of defense reforms, transparency in budgeting, resolving various existing issues through political means.
“Our hope is that we agree to say at the summit meeting in Riga that we intend to issue invitations in 2008,” he said, without specifying whether Georgia will be among the invitees or not.
“We have the doors that are open, we have standards and it is up to the countries to walk through that door by making the necessary reforms,” Volker said.
During the conference Volker also addressed the continuing standoff between Russia and Georgia. “Certainly we are very aware and have been watching very carefully the recent tensions between Russia-Georgia and it is very important that both sides work to deescalate tensions and resolve all conflicts through political means,” he said. “There is no military solution here. The best solution should be the one that is based on democratic practice, economic development and territorial integrity of Georgia and cooperation on security.”