BRUSSELS - The NATO allies supported Georgia in its military confrontation with Russia and said yesterday the Caucasus nation stays on course to one day join their alliance - a prospect Russia strongly opposes.
Meanwhile, Russia's NATO envoy said it's time for Georgia to surrender its claim to the breakaway republic of South Ossetia.
The 26 NATO ambassadors, at a meeting with the Georgian envoy to the alliance, reiterated "in very strong terms" support for a sovereign, independent Georgia, said NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
He told a news conference the allies "condemned and deplored [Russia's] excessive, disproportionate use of force."
De Hoop Scheffer welcomed comments by President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia that he had ordered an end to the fighting in Georgia, but said he could not confirm that has happened.
De Hoop Scheffer said the NATO allies want a formal cease-fire; a return of all Russian and Georgia forces to the positions they held on Aug. 6, a day before hostilities broke out over South Ossetia; and a rapid launch of aid to alleviate the humanitarian crisis. He called Georgia "a friend" and "partner of NATO."