NATO Agrees Georgia, Ukraine Compromise: Officials

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- NATO's biggest nations reached an agreement on Tuesday that will allow the alliance to deepen cooperation with Georgia and Ukraine, without prejudice to the way they would eventually join the alliance.

NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer prior to a meeting at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels.

"We agreed -- without prejudice to further decisions about MAP, whatever they are -- that we will use the commissions to advance their reforms," a senior US official told reporters.

A European diplomat confirmed that a compromise had been found between the United States, Britain, France and Germany at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels to an issue that has divided the alliance.

Georgia and Ukraine had been striving to win membership action plan (MAP) status, which has in the last decade been the final stepping stone toward joining the world's biggest alliance.

But a bloc of around half a dozen European countries, led by Germany believes that the two former Soviet states are not ready for such a step.

The United States has proposed that the two be allowed to continue to advance reforms through the respective NATO-Georgia and NATO-Ukraine Commissions, but Berlin insists that the MAP process be respected.

To join NATO, Georgia and Ukraine must complete political, democratic and military reforms, as well as have good relations with their neighbours.

Their citizens should also be in favour of their candidacies.

Russia, a major supplier of European energy, is vehemently opposed to their bids.

Source: AFP