11 Oct 2017 12:40

SEDM meeting in Baku to discuss Georgia's NATO integration

TBILISI. Oct 11 (Interfax) - A meeting of the South-East Europe Defense Ministerial (SEDM) Process began in Batumi on Wednesday, the Georgian Defense Ministry's press service told the press.

This is the first time Georgia is hosting the meeting as a full-fledged SEDM member, the press service said.

"The SEDM platform gives a unique chance to bolster regional security and defense given today's security challenges," Georgian Defense Minister Levan Izoria said in his opening remarks.

The meeting will focus on consolidating cooperation between countries of the region in promoting regional peace and security and on integration with Euro-Atlantic organizations, according to the press service.

Georgia became an SEDM member in September 2015, it said.

The foundation of the SEDM was laid at a meeting of regional defense ministers held in Tirana, Albania, in 1996 with the assistance of the United States. In addition to Georgia, SEDM unites Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States. Moldova has observer status.

The ministers will confer on current European events and challenges, Georgian First Deputy Defense Minister Lela Chikovani told reporters on Wednesday.

Georgia will sign memoranda with Romania and Slovenia and have bilateral meetings with Bulgarian, Romanian, Italian, and Greek colleagues on the sidelines of the session, she said.

Georgia's integration with NATO will be touched on at the meeting, Chikovani said.

Also, Georgian Defense Minister Levan Izoria will meet with his Turkish counterpart and James Appathurai, the NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, she said.