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The US reaffirms its support for Georgia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, June 11
Philip H Gordon, the new US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, has reaffirmed during his visit to Tbilisi on June 10 that despite the change of US administration the US continues to support Georgia.

“We stand by Georgia, we stand by its territorial integrity,” said Gordon at a press conference at the Georgian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday. At the same press conference, conducted with Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze, the US official expressed America’s regret concerning the veto Russia has placed on the prolongation of the OSCE observing mission in Georgian breakaway region South Ossetia. “Russia has blocked the extension of the OSCE mission in South Ossetia, and we find it regrettable,” stated Gordon, adding that the US hopes that the UN Security Council, which will discuss the issue of the prolongation of the UN mission in the other Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia in mid June, will make “a pragmatic decision” and will allow observers to work on this territory at least.

Gordon also noted that the issue of Georgia is likely to be raised at the meeting of the US and Russian leaders planned for July 2009. He said that President Barack Obama will inform his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev that he will support Georgia.

Georgia was one stop on Gordon’s South Caucasus tour, between his visits to Armenia and Azerbaijan. In Tbilisi Gordon met Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze, Defence Minister Davit Sikharulidze, Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze and Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili. The last meeting scheduled was with President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili. The American diplomat also discussed the current political situation with representatives of Georgia’s Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary opposition.

“We appreciate the fact that there have been political protests in Georgia but we also appreciate the way the Government shows restraint in dealing with those protests. We encourage the Georgian Government to pursue a path of democracy, free media and free speech,” Gordon stated in answer to The Messenger’s question on ways out of the political crisis in Georgia. This question also drew the attention of Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze, who stated that he “doesn’t advise people to use the term political crisis, because there is no political crisis in Georgia now, only a political process is taking place.”

“We have discussed all those questions which traditionally are at the top of the agenda in relations between Georgia and the United States. We’ve heard the absolutely firm position of the new U.S. administration that support for Georgia will continue, support for Georgia’s security will continue and the policy of non-recognition of the occupied territories will continue,” stated Chair of the Georgian Parliament David Bakradze after the meeting with Gordon.

“Naturally, we also discussed Georgian-Russian relations and security problems and I can state that the support of the US will be as strong as it has been during past years. Mr. Gordon was absolutely open and absolutely firm in that message, which he brought from Washington,” added Bakradze, saying that the conversation also covered the aspirations of Georgia to integrate with Euro-Atlantic institutions, and that the US will continue to support these aspirations as well.

“We also spoke about NATO membership and rapprochement with the European Union. The U.S. position is that the United States will continue to support Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration process,” Bakradze continued.

Philip Gordon’s current visit is his first to Georgia since being appointed to his post. He took office on May 15, replacing Daniel Fried.