Hague backs Georgia joining NATO, EU

AFP , Thursday 8 May 2014

Georgia's Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze (R) and British Foreign Secretary William Hague hold a joint news conference in Tbilisi, May 8, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Thursday voiced "very clear support" for Georgia's bid to join NATO and the EU, as he visited the ex-Soviet nation amid alarm over the Ukraine crisis.

"Our support for Georgia's Euro-Atlantic ambitions is very clear," he told a news conference in Tbilisi following visits to Ukraine and Moldova.

NATO leaders agreed at a 2008 summit held shortly after Georgia's brief war with Russia that Tbilisi could join the military alliance at an unspecified future date.

But Georgia was at the time denied coveted pre-membership status due to strong opposition from Russia, which views NATO's expansion into the area of the former Soviet Union as a threat to its security.

Hague said his regional trip was aimed at reassuring Russia's pro-Western neighbours amid the spiralling Ukraine-Russia standoff.

Georgia and Moldova are the two countries of the former Soviet bloc to have initialled association agreements with the European Union which open the way for their potential membership in the 28-nation bloc.

They made the deal in November when Ukraine pulled out of a similar agreement in favour of closer ties with Russia, sparking protests that toppled pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych and led to Russia's annexation of Crimea. 

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