"Of course, it is in the interest of NATO and NATO members that new NATO members do not bring their conflicts into the alliance along with them," Steinmeier, whose country holds the rotating EU Presidency, said at a news conference in Tbilisi.
"On the other hand, it doesn't mean we should view the lack of a resolution as an obstacle to accession," he added. "If we [view it as an obstacle], then we will enable third parties to drag out the rapprochement process endlessly."
Steinmeier is in Georgia as part of a Caucasus tour aimed at promoting closer relations with Europe and exploring possibilities to reduce the EU's dependence on Russian oil and gas.
He visited Azerbaijan earlier today. He is due to complete his tour with a visit to Armenia on February 20.
President Putin at a Kremlin meeting in April (epa)
PUTIN SPEAKS OUT: During a January press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there is a need for "universal principles" to settle "frozen" conflicts in the CIS. His comments came against the background of impending talks on the future status of Kosovo, which many predict will grant it a form of "conditional independence" from Serbia and Montenegro. As an ally of Serbia, Moscow has consistently opposed the idea of Kosovar independence. Putin's remarks suggest he may be shifting his position, but only if the principles applied to Kosovo are also applied to frozen conflicts in the former Soviet Union. If Kosovo can be granted full independence, he asked, why should we deny the same to Abkhazia and South Ossetia? (more)