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19 Mar, 2024 19:47

NATO chief forgets name of city he’s visiting (VIDEO)

Jens Stoltenberg mixed up Baku with Tbilisi while pressing for NATO expansion in the latter city
NATO chief forgets name of city he’s visiting (VIDEO)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confused the capitals of Georgia and Azerbaijan midway through his multi-day trip to the Caucasus. Stoltenberg visited the region to drum up support for NATO in three former Soviet republics.

“It’s good to be back in Baku,” Stoltenberg said in Tbilisi on Monday, a day after his actual trip to Baku. The NATO chief recovered from his geographic gaffe in the following breath, stating that his presence “reflects how much we value the partnership between Georgia and NATO.”

Earlier on Monday, Stoltenberg met with Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili and Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze to discuss increased military cooperation between NATO and the former Soviet republic. Stoltenberg also backed Tbilisi’s claim of sovereignty over the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and proclaimed that Georgia “will become a member of NATO” at an unspecified date in the future.

Georgia opened relations with NATO in 1998, and was promised eventual membership in the US-led military bloc at the Bucharest summit in 2008. However, Russia’s weeklong war in Georgia later that year left Tbilisi with unresolved claims to the newly independent regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Russia recognizes as independent countries.

NATO policy demands that prospective members resolve outstanding international, ethnic and territorial disputes before joining the bloc. As a result, Georgia’s membership bid was essentially frozen by the 2008 war.

Stoltenberg met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku on Sunday, and with Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturyan and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Yerevan on Tuesday. The secretary general praised Azerbaijan and Armenia for their contributions to NATO operations, and urged Baku and Yerevan to normalize ties after decades of tension and open conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the trip demonstrates NATO’s “overall aspiration to secure a foothold in the Caucasus.” Peskov added that Stoltenberg’s diplomatic offensive is “unlikely to bring any stability” to the region.