June 26, 2014 08:20
NATO members, wary of antagonizing Russia, will propose closer ties with Georgia but stop short of granting full membership to the one-time Soviet republic, the alliance's top official said Wednesday.
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance instead will offer Tbilisi a "substantive package" of support, without giving details, when NATO meets in September in Cardiff, Wales.
"This is a summit decision, but we have agreement in principle that we will develop a substantive package for Georgia that will help it come closer to NATO. We will work out the elements in the coming weeks," Rasmussen said.
NATO leaders agreed in 2008 to support Georgia's NATO membership bid at some point after it fought a brief war with Russia. But now Western nations are locked in a contentious standoff with Moscow over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and involvement in eastern Ukraine.
That has given NATO pause in whether to grant Georgia full membership.
Russia has been bitterly opposed to NATO expansion into the former Soviet states.
Some NATO members voiced fears of unduly provoking Moscow by granting Georgia full membership, which could require the 28-member alliance to defend it if there is another armed conflict with Russia.
The Ukraine crisis has forced NATO to reconsider its security needs in eastern Europe, offering extra help and support to new members such as Poland and the Baltic countries.
In September, NATO will also review the position on Montenegro "at the latest by the end of 2015 whether to invite [it] to join the alliance," Rasmussen said.
Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are also seeking NATO membership.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.
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