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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Georgia and NATO Aim For Speedy Radar Link

TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgia's radar sites will probably be integrated into NATO's radar system by the end of this year, earlier than planned because of worries about Russian military flights, the Georgian Defense Ministry said Thursday.

"Recent incidents prompted discussions in Brussels, at NATO headquarters, to speed up these procedures, so that Georgia is incorporated into that system as soon as possible," Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Batu Kuteliya said in an interview. "They should probably be finished late this autumn."

The announcement came a day after Georgia accused Russian aircraft of entering its airspace and two weeks after it accused a Russian jet of dropping a missile on its soil. Moscow has dismissed the allegations as nonsense.

Integration of Georgia's radar into the NATO system will give NATO controllers real-time information about any incursions into Georgian airspace, Kuteliya said.

In Brussels, NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero said she was unable to give a precise date for the linking of radar systems but added, "It seems that the implementation will be ready in the near future."

Georgia's pro-Western leadership has started procedures that could ultimately lead to the country becoming a NATO member. Russia opposes Georgia's accession to the alliance.

The integration of radar systems is likely to sharpen Russian concerns that a Western military presence is creeping closer to its borders. Georgia has formed a close alliance with Washington and receives U.S. military aid.

Russia already opposes a U.S. plan to station elements of a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, and has suspended its compliance with an arms control treaty, accusing NATO of building up conventional forces in Eastern Europe.

"Data which our radar system gives us on the situation in Georgian airspace will be accessible for all ... NATO countries. It will be in real time," Kuteliya said. "Everything will be displayed at NATO headquarters, at the central command point," he said.

NATO spokeswoman Romero said the system allowed for the exchange of "airtrack data" with NATO partners.

"The partners connect to the NATO system and receive NATO data at the unclassified level and they share their own data," she said.

The alliance agreed in 2003 to a plan to share radar data with Georgia, but technical issues have remained unresolved.

In Brussels on Wednesday, NATO member states discussed the need to finalize the plan after reviewing an Aug. 6 incident in which Tbilisi accused Russia of dropping a 1-ton missile -- which did not explode -- on Georgian soil.

On Wednesday, Georgia's Foreign Ministry said a fighter jet flying from Russia had a day earlier flown five kilometers into Georgian airspace.

General Yury Baluyevsky, the chief of the General Staff, denied the claim Thursday. He said Georgian officials "must be starting to suffer from hallucinations."

The chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will soon travel to Moscow to discuss the incident, the envoy investigating the claims said Thursday.