BRUSSELS -- NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says he will visit Georgia later this month to meet with the Caucasus republic's leadership and attend a joint military exercise.
Stoltenberg was speaking to journalists on March 6 in Brussels after talks with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic.
"I will visit Georgia later on this month and that's part of the regular strong partnership, political dialogue I have, we have, with Georgia. I will meet with the political leadership in Georgia and I also visit and see the joint NATO-Georgia exercise," Stoltenberg said.
The NATO-Georgia Exercise 2019 will take place between March 18 and March 29 at the Krtsanisi National Training Center, near the capital, Tbilisi.
Troops from 23 NATO members and partner countries will participate in the exercise.
"This is an exercise which we have [held] regularly and it illustrates that NATO and Georgia -- we are close partners," Stoltenberg said. The first NATO-Georgia exercise was held in 2016.
In May 2013, Georgia stated its goal to get a Membership Action Plan (MAP) -- a first step toward eventual membership -- for his country from NATO in 2014. However, in June 2014, NATO officials announced that Georgia would not yet be invited to join the MAP process, but that NATO would implement a "substantive package" of cooperation measures with Georgia.
In December 2017, Stoltenberg affirmed support for Georgia's "eventual NATO membership."
Stoltenberg also thanked Georgia for its contribution to NATO missions in Afghanistan and other places.
"Georgia provides a lot of support to NATO, participating in different NATO missions and operations, not least in Afghanistan but also in different NATO exercises," Stoltenberg said.
The NATO chief thanked Djukanovic, whose country became an alliance member in 2017, for his continued support for the bloc's expansion.
"Mr. President, you are a strong champion of NATO's open-door policy," Stoltenberg told Djukanovic, adding that Podgorica "is promoting stability in the Western Balkans and demonstrating that NATO's door remains open."
At a 2008 summit, NATO agreed that Georgia will eventually become a member, but no firm date has been given, although the membership perspective for the country has been reconfirmed at every summit ever since.
Georgia fought a brief war with Russia in August 2008, and Moscow’s continued military presence on Georgian territory adds to tensions in the region.