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Philip Gordon talks about US-Georgian relations ahead of Clinton’s visit

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, July 1
A better relationship with Russia does not come at the expense of the United States’ relationship with sovereign, independent countries that are near Russia, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Philip Gordon, said on June 29.

Answering a journalist's question about whether Clinton’s trip would be an “effort to reassure people who might feel that their interests may be getting sold short because of the reset”[in Russian-US relations], Gordon said “in both places [Georgia and Ukraine] the Secretary will talk to her counterparts about Russia, but I would not see it as the purpose of the trip. We don’t think that anybody should have any concerns about the new and better relationship with Russia. And we think that some of Russia’s neighbours benefit when the US and Russia have a more trusting, open relationship.”

The Assistant Secretary of State said that he would not see Clinton’s visits as a “sort of reassurance trip”. “We have made absolutely clear from the start that a better relationship with Russia does not come at the expense of our relationship with sovereign, independent countries that are near Russia. And this is going to be an opportunity for the Secretary to reiterate and demonstrate that,” Gordon noted.

The US is “dissatisfied” with the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Assistant Secretary of State said. “The President made it clear to President Medvedev last week, and we’ve been consistent in noting, that we respect Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and we call on Russia to abide by its commitments in the August 2008 ceasefire agreement, which not only called for the nonuse of force and an end to hostilities, but called upon the parties to move their military forces back to where they were before the conflict began. And that hasn’t been done,” he said.

Gordon stressed the necessity of “more transparency” in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “There should be more transparency. You have transparency in undisputed Georgia. You have the EU monitoring mission. And I think that provides the world with a window onto what’s going on there,” he noted. “In South Ossetia and Abkhazia you don’t have an international presence. You previously had the OSCE in South Ossetia. You had the UN in Abkhazia and we don’t anymore. So we have raised this consistently with the Russians. We have a different view on it,” he said.

However, Gordon said that the US is pursuing “a better” relationship with Russia. “But again, it fits into what I began with, that we’re pursuing a better relationship with Russia. In many areas, we’re advancing our cooperation. We have a significant disagreement on this issue, and we have made that clear to the Russians. And there will be a chance in Tbilisi to engage with the Georgians on the subject."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to arrive in Georgia on July 5. During her visit Clinton will meet President Mikheil Saakashvili and Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze. Her agenda also includes meetings with members of the opposition, representatives of civil society and women’s leaders. “She will review the progress of the US-Georgia strategic partnership and the results of the recent municipal elections,” according to the US Department of State Press Service.