NATO Defence Ministers concerned by Russia’s military build-up in the Black Sea region, 3 Oct 2018 - 23:01, Tbilisi,Georgia

NATO Defence Ministers have expressed concern over Russia’s military build-up in the Black Sea region at a meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission today in Brussels.

NATO defence ministers agreed to continue working together to address regional security challenges.

Calling the meeting ‘productive’, Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg said Georgia will join the alliance as had been reaffirmed by the allied leaders at the summit in July.

“Today, the allies also restated their full support for Georgia’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity. We call on Russia to end its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and to withdraw its forces from these regions of Georgia. We are also concerned by Russia’s military build-up in the Black Sea region. Black Sea security is a priority for NATO and for Georgia,” he said.

Jens Stoltenberg has emphasised that NATO and Georgia are working together more closely ‘than ever before’. In his words, this work involves training the Georgian Coast Guard boarding teams, more cooperation between Georgian and NATO naval forces and between Georgia’s Joint Maritime Operations Centre and the NATO’s Maritime Command.

“The allies also welcomed the continued progress Georgia is making on reforms. We encourage Georgia to continue along the path of reform,” Stoltenberg added.

Georgia’s Defence Minister Levan Izoria has offered the idea of launching a new Defence Readiness Centre in Georgia to the NATO-Georgia commission members.

“The Georgia Defense Readiness Program, which was launched in cooperation with the US this year, has the potential to involve other NATO member countries with the aim of carrying out joint training. This would need appropriate infrastructure and logistic support,” he said, adding that strategic defense readiness is a crucial factor for Georgia especially in terms of NATO integration.

He said the idea has been greatly supported by NATO Defence Ministers and there are going to be several possibilities for discussing it as the next mechanism of practical cooperation with the alliance during the next two years.