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Georgia ready to join NATO but Russia stands in way - minister

RIA Novosti


ROME, February 9 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia is ready to join NATO but Russia's position prevents the alliance from accepting the South Caucasus country, the Georgian foreign minister said Monday.

"Georgia is ready to join NATO. All required criteria are observed," Grigol Vashadze, on a visit to Italy, told the ANSA news agency after talks with his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini.

"We know the true reason why we are not inside NATO yet. Because some founding countries do not want to irritate Moscow," he said.

Georgia has long been striving for NATO membership but its bid was turned down due to pressure from Germany and France at a 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest. However, NATO said the country could join it at an unspecified date in the future.

"If Georgia joined the alliance, Russia would have to recognize its independence and territorial integrity," Vashadze said.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in armed conflicts in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia recognized Georgia's former republics in August 2008 after repelling Georgia's assault on South Ossetia in a five-day war.

The West has called on Russia to reverse its decision. Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru have followed Russia's example.

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