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Holbrooke Heads To Georgia After Ending Central Asia Tour

February 21, 2010

U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke flew to Georgia today after ending a tour of Central Asian countries aimed at strengthening regional assistance in stabilizing Afghanistan.

Speaking in Kazakhstan's capital Astana at the close of his trip today, Holbrooke told reporters that his stay in Georgia will be focused on Tbilisi's contribution to NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.

“I’m going from here to Georgia to review the Georgian battalion which is going to Afghanistan, but once again my trip has nothing to do with Georgian-Russian relations. It’s about Georgia’s extraordinarily important contribution to the international effort in Afghanistan,” Holbrooke said.

Holbrooke, who met today with the Kazakh prime minister and foreign minister, praised Kazakhstan as “a solid strategic partner."

“Kazakhstan is the largest, wealthiest, and most successful country in the region, it has conducted a multi-directional foreign policy with great skill under the leadership of President Nazarbaev," Holbrooke said.

"Secondly the resources available to Kazakhstan which are only beginning to be tapped, are going to be of immense importance to the world and give Kazakhstan an opportunity to emerge as a developed nation within a few years, if they manage their resources right.”

Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev, for his part, said "Kazakhstan has always been there for the United States as a solid strategic partner since September 11, 2001."

During a stop in Tajikistan earlier, Holbrooke said talks in Dushanbe had also focused on energy and regional water use. Holbrooke said in Dushanbe that Tajikistan was "a country of immense importance if one wants to have a peaceful outcome in Afghanistan.”

On February 19, Holbrooke visited Uzbekistan where he met with President Islam Karimov.

Asked today whether the United States is planning to open a military base in Uzbekistan, Holbrooke said, “Uzbekistan does provide us valuable opportunities to transit material to Afghanistan and that’s important but a military base, no.“

Earlier in his trip Holbrooke warned of the continuing danger posed to the region by the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Holbrooke, who is America's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, began his tour to Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan on February 17.

He is due to end his trip to Georgia on February 22. The U.S Embassy in Tbilisi has announced that Holbrooke will meet Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and he will also visit Georgian troops at the Krtsanisi National Training Center.

He is also due to observe training for the ISAF operation in Afghanistan.

RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service contributed to this report

Source: Georgia_After_Ending_Central_Asia_Tour/1964248.html

Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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