August 13, 2008 / 4:13 PM / 11 years ago

Poland, Baltics urge NATO roadmap for Georgia

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland and the three Baltic states urged NATO on Wednesday to give Georgia a clear roadmap to membership of the alliance in response to Russia’s military action against the ex-Soviet nation.

The four countries, where suspicion of their former Soviet overlord runs deep, have led EU critics of the Russian action in Georgia, calling it an aggression on a sovereign state.

“The only option to prevent similar acts of aggression and occupation against Georgia in the future is to give (Georgia) a NATO Membership Action Plan,” leaders of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia said in a joint statement.

The statement followed a trip by Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his Lithuanian and Estonian counterparts and the Latvian prime minister to Tbilisi on Tuesday in a show of support for Georgia.

Moscow says its intervention in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia, which lasted six days before a French-brokered ceasefire on Tuesday, was a response to a Georgian attempt to retake the province by force.

At an April summit in Bucharest, NATO failed to endorse U.S. proposals to offer the Membership Action Plan — a roadmap to full membership — to Georgia and Ukraine, both former Soviet states seeking closer ties with the West.

NATO said on Tuesday that its pledge that Georgia would one day become a member of the alliance still stood, despite the fighting with Russia over South Ossetia.

Russia is fiercely opposed to Georgia’s aspirations to join NATO, which would take the Western military alliance right up to its southern border. Many analysts believe this was one of the main causes of this month’s fighting.

At an emergency meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, European Union foreign ministers agreed in principle to send monitors to supervise the ceasefire between Russia and Georgia.

The four central European leaders said, however, that the ceasefire agreement was missing a key component — recognition of territorial integrity of Georgia.

Analysts say lack of such a formulation could mean Georgia may lose South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, for good. Russia has said it wants to reopen negotiations on the status of the two provinces.

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