By Agnes Szucs
BRUSSELS (AA) – NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili agreed Wednesday on the need to remain vigilant against Russia’s destabilizing activities and to avoid escalation of tensions.
The NATO secretary-general and the Georgian leader held talks in Brussels about the security situation in Eastern Europe, including Russia’s military buildup in and around Ukraine and its destabilizing activity in the Black Sea region.
“We agreed on the need to remain vigilant and to avoid escalation,” Stoltenberg said, warning that “any future Russian aggression would come at a high price and have serious political and economic consequences for Russia.”
He also repeated his previous stance on Georgia’s and Ukraine’s possible NATO membership, pointing out that the two countries had “the right to choose their own alliances, and Russia has no right to dictate that choice.”
Stoltenberg promised that NATO would continue its support for Georgia in developing its defense capabilities with maritime support, joint exercises, and information sharing.
He also thanked the country for contributing to NATO’s mission and efforts in Afghanistan in halting international terrorism, as well as participating in the evacuations.
Garibashvili said he was looking forward to further cooperation with NATO, noting that NATO membership was “a top foreign and security policy for Georgia" that is supported by "the absolute majority" of Georgian people.
Later on Wednesday, he will join leaders from the 27 EU members and the Eastern Partnership countries, including Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova, and Armenia, at the summit of the joint initiative.