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Polish, Georgian presidents discuss energy security, EU, NATO

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Polish President Lech Kaczynski, on his first official visit to Georgia, has discussed economic cooperation, energy security and Georgia's integration into NATO with President Mikheil Saakhasvili, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported Monday.
TBILISI, April 16 (RIA Novosti) - Polish President Lech Kaczynski, on his first official visit to Georgia, has discussed economic cooperation, energy security and Georgia's integration into NATO with President Mikheil Saakhasvili, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported Monday.

The visit is taking place ahead of an energy summit in Warsaw May 11-12, expected to bring together the presidents of Poland, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine.

Kaczynski said Georgia could become a NATO candidate member in 2008.

"At the next NATO summit, scheduled for April 2008 in Lisbon, Georgia may be offered the Membership Action Plan (MAP)," he said.

Kaczynski will next meet with Georgian Parliament Speaker Nino Burdzhanadze.

"Poland is a very important partner for Georgia, which has supported it during the most difficult times," Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said earlier.

He said Poland was the first country to open its market to Georgian wines after an economic blockade.

"Poland is our reliable partner as we move towards Euro-Atlantic integration, and we hope our economic relations will be equally good," he said.

A delegation of the Georgian Defense Ministry, led by Deputy Minister Batu Kutelia, is holding meetings at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

The ministry said the two sides were discussing the fulfillment of Georgia's obligations under the Planning and Review Process (PARP).

Tbilisi hopes NATO membership will help it regain control of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are backed by Russia. Russia helped to end the bloody conflicts in the region in the early 1990s and has maintained peacekeeping troops there ever since.

The U.S. House of Representatives gave a final backing to NATO's further eastward enlargement, including bids from ex-Soviet Georgia and Ukraine last week, promising a total of $12 million in aid to the two countries and former Communist-bloc members Albania, Croatia and Macedonia in 2008. The bill is yet to be signed by the president.

NATO's ongoing expansion has unnerved Russia, which already feels itself to be "encircled" by the alliance's bases on the territory of its former Soviet allies in the Baltic region and Central Asia.

Moscow strongly opposes efforts by Georgia and Ukraine to join the alliance, saying the prospect threatens its security and prompts a new arms race.

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