|Georgia president demands timetable to join NATO|
|November 20, 2008|
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili demanded Thursday that his Caucasus republic be offered a timetable showing what it must do to qualify for membership in NATO. "Not offering Georgia a plan of action leading to membership will send the wrong signal to the wrong people," he said in Munich, paying his first visit to Germany since his nation's war with Russia this summer.
Russia has strongly opposed Georgia being absorbed into NATO, insisting that the former Soviet republic belongs to its sphere of influence. Timetables offer new entrants a transition period to reshape their military institutions to NATO standards.
He met Thursday with the premier of Bavaria state, Horst Seehofer, and opened an honorary Georgian consulate in Munich.
Saakashvili criticized Russia, saying it was preventing half a million Georgians from returning to their homes in two breakaway territories. He said Russian troops were "occupying" one fifth of Georgian territory.
He also said he hoped Georgia would obtain a partnership and association agreement with the European Union, saying, "Georgia belongs in Europe." It had a European history and European hopes.
He said Tbilisi sought better relations with Russia. The crisis in Georgia was one "of the whole region."
"I don't believe anybody is happy about the situation," he said.
The Georgian consul-general in Munich is a Bavarian industrialist, Claus Hipp, who has held an appointment as professor of art in Georgia for the past 10 years. Hipp's company is a major manufacturer of baby food.
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