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NATO's enhanced dialogue with Georgia does not mean the country will automatically be granted membership
NATO's enhanced dialogue with Georgia does not mean the country will automatically be granted membership, the head of the trans-Atlantic alliance's military committee said Tuesday. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, Ray Henault said NATO's intensified dialogue with non-members is not a guarantee of accession. A decision to take in a new state is usually preceded by lengthy negotiations, and there are certain requirements for aspirants to meet, including interior stability and good relations with neighbors, he said. Henault said it is still premature to talk about Georgia's admission, and that to be considered as a candidate it should first resolve its conflicts with its breakaway provinces and with Russia. He added that NATO sees those conflicts as part of the country's bilateral relations with neighbors, and has no intention to step in to mediate. Georgia's relations with Russia went sour after President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power on the back of a "color" revolution in 2003. The Western-leaning, U.S.-educated leader pledged to take the Caucasus nation into NATO and the European Union - a prospect to which Moscow strongly objects. Relations were further strained in September of this year after NATO ministers, meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, endorsed the so-called Intensified Dialogue with Georgia. Russia's Foreign Ministry denounced the decision, saying closer ties between the alliance and the ex-Soviet nation could "seriously affect the political, military and economic interests of Russia and undermine the fragile status quo in the Caucasus." The arrest in Georgia of four Russian army officers on espionage charges a week later sent relations to a new low, prompting Moscow to suspend transportation and postal links with its Caucasus neighbor and to expel hundreds of Georgian migrants.
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