NATO foreign ministers meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Brussels to discuss the candidacies of Georgia and Ukraine to join the Atlantic alliance. From Paris, Lisa Bryant reports the European ministers may also hold talks on sending an interim force to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The candidacies of Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO are a tricky issue, with alliance members divided over what just how to proceed this week. The Bush administration earlier pushed for a quicker entry process for the two countries, but it says neither is ready to join right now. Both Georgia and Ukraine were given guarantees they would eventually join NATO, earlier this year.
At issue is the question of a formal road map for joining, known as a Membership Action Plan or map. France and Germany fear the MAP process may be side stepped, and in particular do not want to anger Russia which is opposed to the two countries joining NATO.
Daniel Korski, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, says the ministers may reach a compromise at the end of the meeting -- but there are no guarantees that will happen.
"The debate is likely to continue," Korski said. "There is a compromise proposal and the big issue is whether the Germans and the French are happy with that proposal. They will, after all, host the NATO 60th anniversary summit this spring and they'll want to make sure its a success. Certainly its going to be President Barack Obama's first meeting. So there's a lot of push to accept a compromise, but its not going to be certain in the first couple of hours or at least until the foreign ministers meeting is over.
European ministers are also expected to discuss in Brussels a U.N. request to send an emergency peacekeeping force to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been torn apart by fighting. France and Belgium are pushing for such a force, but other countries are skeptical about the proposal.