Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili urged the country's likely new prime minister, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, to work with him on the country's bid for NATO membership.
“We now have a historic chance to move forward along the path of integration. In December, NATO [defense] ministers will meet and probably make new decisions,” Saakashvili said on Friday.
“I have already told the new prime minister that joint efforts today are needed like never before,” he added.
Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition won an unexpected victory at this month's parliamentary polls and the tycoon is expected to become the country's next prime minister.
Saakashvili also said he had had a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who congratulated him on the conduct of democratic and fair elections and supported Georgia’s eventual integration into the alliance.
Ivanishvili said after meeting Saakashvili on Tuesday that he shared the president's ambitions.
“Our strategy is European and Euro-Atlantic integration,” he said.
Georgia's October 1 parliamentary elections saw a humiliating defeat for Saakashvili, whose United National Movement was voted out after eight years in power. Georgia is set to become a parliamentary republic after Saakashvili stands down next autumn, with most of the president's powers going to the prime minister.
NATO leaders stated during the alliance's April 2008 summit in Bucharest that Georgia would be granted membership of the organization "in the future." But Georgia's August 2008 war with Russia over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia raised concerns among NATO members that membership for the tiny south Caucasus state could see the alliance sucked into a conflict with Russia.