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President Salome Zourabichvili: “Georgia is a Free, Sovereign Country, Freely Makes Choice, and Embraces Allies”

President Salome Zourabichvili visited the NATO-Georgian Joint Training and Evaluation Center (JTEC) to gain information on the NATO-Georgia Exercise 2019 and toured the multinational brigade headquarter with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the Chief of Georgian Defense Forces, and the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, Admiral Manfred Nielson.

President Salome Zourabichvili addressed those participating in the exercises on updates on the NATO integration process and emphasized that the large-scale military exercises, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s visit to Tbilisi, the arrival of the NATO Military Committee, and the expected visit of the North Atlantic Council during the second half of the year are evidences of the Alliance’s steadfast support toward us.

“Today, with the successful accomplishment of the “NATO-Georgia Exercise 2019”, our country reaffirms its strong commitment to membership in the North Atlantic Alliance.
And, today with this new successful step, we clearly and confidently declare that our inevitable goal is membership to NATO.
Our goal is strengthening our democracy and security and intensify our attendance in global peace missions done through international partnerships.
Georgia is already a leading partner of NATO, as evidenced in the joint exercise conducted this year. This is also an amazing fact.
“This demonstrates to what extent we have enhanced our possibilities, to what extent we have developed the confidence and strategic partnership that our partners share with us, and the support our allies give us.
This kind of recognition is a response to our devoted efforts. I would like to express my sincere gratitude toward our partners.
This year, the number of participating states increased by 10 members, bringing around 24 NATO member and partner states in this important format. 
Through this kind of steps, we will accomplish our shared goal: more NATO in Georgia and more Georgia in NATO.
I would like to underline that during my recent visits abroad, I have listened to great statements made by the NATO Secretary-General, Chiefs of Military Staffs, and leaders of NATO member states regarding the reforms we’ve implemented. It was an honor for me to listen to them as the President of Georgia and Georgia’s Commander-in-Chief.
Large-scale military exercises, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s visit to Tbilisi, the arrival of the NATO Military Committee, and the expected visit of the North Atlantic Council during the second half of the year are evidences of the Alliance’s steadfast support toward us.
We are successfully implementing military and political reforms, responding to all standards and commitments necessary for NATO integration. 
Our country, in accordance with NATO standards, spends 2% of its GDP on defense issues. Almost 20% of the defense budget is spent on arms and equipment.
We are not restricted by these standards, we are enhancing the range of our cooperation and it is crucial, especially on Black Sea security and cybersecurity issues. 
These issues are our shared trouble and it is necessary to intensify cooperation in this regard.  
We are outstanding partners in international peacekeeping missions. We are committed to preserve global peace and international security.
I met with our honorable soldiers in Afghanistan who are participating in peacekeeping missions. Their expertise and devotion is exemplary. Our western partners have always applauded how Georgia is contributing to strengthening international security.
Georgia’s course toward NATO, and the strengthening of our country’s defense capabilities are not directed against anyone and no threat used against us is tolerable.
Georgia is a free, sovereign country and it freely makes its choices and embraces its allies.
Our choice not only enhances Georgia’s defense capabilities and its security but also reinforces the region’s stability and sets the ground for our peaceful policy.
This is the only right way and the only future-oriented choice for Georgia; therefore, we pursue the path that we’ve elected: more NATO in Georgia and more Georgia in NATO,” the President said.

NATO-Georgia Exercise 2019” is a command and staff exercise that is held on March 18-29, in JTEC, bringing together almost 350 soldiers and civilians.
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