Germany: Too soon for Ukraine-Georgia NATO bid

2nd December 2008, Comments 0 comments

NATO foreign ministers are meeting this week in Brussels, almost four months after Russia's war with Georgia, to review the candidacies of the two former Soviet republics.

Berlin -- Germany on Monday said too little progress had been made to even start the ball rolling on the bids by Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO, while suggesting Russia should also be consulted on the matter.

NATO foreign ministers are meeting this week in Brussels, almost four months after Russia's war with Georgia, to review the candidacies of the two former Soviet republics who want to join the western military alliance.

The Bush administration has been pushing their candidacies, although US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week it was "very clear" they were not ready for immediate membership.

"A great many countries think that Georgia and Ukraine have not made enough progress to even be considered for the Membership Action Plan (MAP)," a trial period prior to being allowed into the western alliance, deputy government spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters.

He cited reservations expressed by NATO leaders at a summit in Bucharest in April that the two countries lacked the internal stability and broad popular support for joining the alliance that membership would require.

And he noted what he called NATO's agreement to consult with Moscow on the accession of new members.

"The steps toward expansion of NATO -- this was discussed in the past and we made clear in Bucharest that these steps would also made in the future, that these would indeed be coordinated with Russia. However there is no right of veto on NATO expansion for other actors," he said.

Russia has been strongly critical of bids by Ukraine and Georgia to join the western alliance.

US talk of fast-tracking their candidacies by bypassing the MAP transition period "is a suggestion which must be viewed with great prudence," foreign ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner added at the regular government news conference.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Rice have expressed "different opinions" in telephone talks on the matter, Ploetner said.

While the US secretary of state said there does not need to be any discussion at the foreign ministers meeting of approving MAP for Georgia and Ukraine, she said the United States still seeks to intensify NATO cooperation with the countries.

Some European NATO members fear her statement indicates Washington is looking for a potential new platform to help open NATO's door for Georgia and Ukraine.

In an interview published Monday by the Handelsblatt newspaper, Steinmeier said that while Ukraine and Georgia must be offered the prospect of NATO membership, the time was not ripe for change.

DPA

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