Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to welcome you here in Tbilisi to the 10th Georgia Defence and Security Conference, which undoubtedly has become one of the key forums in the region to address defence and security related matters of strategic importance.

I cannot emphasize enough the significance of the timing of the conference, when Georgian nation embraces the 25th anniversary of the independence of our country, and the importance of your presence here to show your interest, support and join us in celebrations.

Nonetheless, we are at the doorstep of the Warsaw Summit, whose outcomes will be key in shaping NATO’s course of action in response to the security challenges we currently face.

Today, the Euro-Atlantic community no longer has the “luxury” of dealing with a single problem at a time, but is faced with far more diverse and complicated issues from different angles. The off-putting global-security dynamics have demonstrated the need for unity, consistency and at the same time, flexibility of the Alliance and its Partners, which in itself is a demanding trait to possess.

These two days will give us a valuable opportunity to reflect on number of issues of concern both to the Allies and Partners alike, share views and jointly shape the way ahead.

In the face of the challenging security situation in the region, we remain firm advocates of NATO’s efforts to strengthen security and ensure stability of the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond.

Having said this, Georgia reiterates its commitment to do its utmost to contribute to common security and defend the values and principles we share with the Alliance. With substantial contribution of forces for international missions for over a decade we have proved that we are both willing and able of being providers of security rather than consumers.

At the national level, we continue to implement ambitious reforms based on democratic values and core principles shared by western democracies. Our aim is to build a stronger, more confident state, capable of deterring and defending against contemporary threats and provocations.

When we speak about the security of Europe, we cannot neglect the significance of the Black Sea and Caucasus region, as historically it has been representing a point where East and West meet. Today, it also represents a common space of responsibility for NATO Allies and partners. This region is an inseparable element of European and Euro-Atlantic security architecture; much like a piece of a puzzle without which the picture would be incomplete.

I take great pride in leading a country who has been bearing tremendous weight over centuries for a single cause – ensuring security and stability on its land, thus safeguarding welfare of its people. We realize that the latter can only be guaranteed where sovereignty, freedom and democratic values of a nation is fully respected and protected.

Therefore our foreign and security policy direction is driven towards full European and Euro-Atlantic integration, which represents the choice of Georgian people and the will of the major political powers, including opposition. NATO membership will not only further enhance Georgia’s security, but it will promote stability in the whole Black Sea and Caucasus region.

As for the progress on this path, 28 Allies’ unanimous decision at the Bucharest Summit, paves the way for our aspirations; I am glad that the December Ministerial brought more clarification to modalities of membership process, noting that ‘Georgia’s relationship with the Alliance contains all the practical tools to prepare for eventual membership’, while rendering the Membership Action Plan as an integral, political component of the Allied decision on the matter.

Georgia favors a result oriented approach and chooses to focus on delivering concrete results. Thereby we use all existing mechanisms to the fullest and a myriad of NATO programmes in order to further advance NATO interoperability and accelerate membership preparation process.

Unfortunately, during past years, we have been targeted with immense anti-western propaganda aimed at strengthening nihilistic sentiments and questioning viability of Georgia’s foreign policy orientation. As we spare no effort to counter disinformation and deter growing hybrid threats, more commitment from the West is crucial especially to enhance NATO’s visibility and engagement in the region.

I believe that NATO - Georgia relations hold great potential to intensity efforts in this regard and that the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package serves this purpose by actively engaging Allies and partner nations.

I cannot underestimate the significance of active bilateral cooperation and support of our strategic partners, a fruit of which is the ongoing large-scale military exercise Noble Partner - serving development of Georgia’s defence capabilities, enhancing NATO interoperability and strengthening ties between nations. Hereby I would like to extend gratefulness to the United States and the United Kingdom for their enormous support in this endeavor. I can only hope that this is one of many instances yet to come.

I am a firm believer that the strength is in unity, and that great success can only be achieved with joint efforts. I am confident that Warsaw Summit will be an occasion where the Alliance will demonstrate its unity, therefore its strength and adherence to the enduring commitment to ensure peace and stability.

Georgia is proud to stand by NATO as one of its closest, most reliable and strategic partners, with a rightful aspiration to become a fully-fledged member of the Alliance.

In the run up of the Warsaw Summit Georgia expects strong political support from the Alliance with regard to its membership aspirations and irreversibility on this track, and hopes for ample reflection of the progress made by our country. Considering the security situation developments in the region, and the prospect for Georgia to play a significant part in enhancing stability, we also expect concrete means to further enhance deterrence and defence capabilities.

As known, main focus of the Warsaw Summit will be strengthening security of the member states, especially in the Eastern flank of the Alliance. We hope that nations will consider emphasizing the role and involvement of strategic partners like Georgia in this process, since we share the common responsibility for contributing to the stability of Europe.

As we strongly believe that current threats and challenges to the Euro-Atlantic security can only be deterred through mutual efforts and inclusive approach; we long for bringing more life to the principle  ‘more NATO in Georgia and more Georgia in NATO’, while strengthening our ability to support those efforts with greater confidence.