Georgian president to address NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Spain

By RIA Novosti,

Tbilisi : Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is to address on Tuesday a session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Spain, Georgia’s presidential press service said.

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NATO’s 54th Parliamentary Assembly session runs from November 14 to 18 in Valencia.

Russia’s envoy to NATO has criticized the alliance for refusing him the right to address the session. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s president, Jose Lello, refused Dmitry Rogozin’s request, saying there was not sufficient time to fit him into the session schedule.

Saakashvili, who has been actively seeking membership for Georgia in the Western military alliance, is expected to focus on criticism of Russia’s role in the August conflict over South Ossetia.

“The president of Georgia will address a session of the NATO-PA. He will talk about August’s events [in South Ossetia], Russian military aggression against Georgia, and the ensuing occupation of parts of Georgia [by Russia],” the press service said.

Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war after Georgia attacked its breakaway republic of South Ossetia on August 8. Moscow recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another rebel region, as independent states in late August.

Although Russia has withdrawn its troops from “undisputed” parts of Georgia under the so-called Medvedev-Sarkozy ceasefire plan, issues remain over the number of soldiers it has stationed in the two rebel regions.

During the August conflict, most Western powers sided with Georgia, accepting Saakashvili’s claim that Georgia had reacted to military aggression from Russia.

However, Saakashvili’s version of events has come under scrutiny since the conflict, and Western rights groups and media outlets have drawn attention to Georgian attacks on South Ossetian civilians.

Independent observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have said they are unable to verify Georgia’s claim that Russia bombarded Georgian villages in the run-up to the conflict. Georgia had based its justification for its attack on South Ossetia on the alleged Russian bombardment.

Saakashvili has also come under pressure in his own country. Around 10,000 protesters gathered on the streets of Tbilisi in early November, protesting both against Saakashvili’s rule and his decision to drag the country into a costly war that it had little chance of winning.

In his speech at the session, Saakashvili will also outline Georgia’s plans for NATO accession.

At a summit in April, NATO member states decided to put off the decision on whether to grant Membership Action Plans to Georgia and another ex-Soviet republic, Ukraine, until December. Their bids have received strong U.S. backing, but Germany and France said that opening the path to membership for the two states would unnecessarily antagonize Russia.

NATO-PA, an inter-parliamentary organization of legislators, is a separate entity from NATO, although it maintains a close working relationship with NATO.