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Georgian President Says Pence Reassured Tbilisi Over NATO Bid

RFE/RL August 02, 2017

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili says his country's territorial integrity and its eventual membership in NATO were "clearly defined" during U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's July 31-August 1 visit to the South Caucasus country.

In an interview with Voice of America on August 2, Margvelashvili also said he has seen "continued stable support" for Tbilisi from President Donald Trump's administration during its first six months in office.

The interview with Margvelashvili took place as Pence was on the final leg of a four-day tour of Estonia, Georgia, and Montenegro -- all countries where leaders have expressed concerns about Russia's intentions in their regions.

Estonia and Montenegro are NATO members, while Georgia has expressed the desire of eventually joining.

Margvelashvili said he had received reassurances from Pence about an eventual invitation for Georgia to join NATO.

"Vice President Pence mentioned that the future of Georgia will be in NATO and that the U.S. is backing up the 2008 NATO summit decision on future prospects of Georgia," Margvelashvili said in the interview.

In 2008, a NATO gathering in Bucharest proclaimed that Georgia would someday become a member of the alliance. Those aspirations have been cited as a chief catalyst for the five-day war later that year in which Russian forces drove deep into the South Caucasus country.

After the brief war, the Kremlin recognized Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries, and Moscow maintains thousands of troops in the two regions.

Pence "was clear in his language as he spoke of freedom, our territorial integrity, our sovereignty, our partnership with the U.S.A.," Margvelashvili said.

"The most important issue for my country is territorial integrity and reunification of Georgian sovereignty...This was clearly defined by Vice President Pence."

Margvelashvili said his country has also seen strong support from both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress.

"The language we have seen from [Capitol] Hill supports Georgia," he said.

He cited a visit in early 2017 by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators led by Republican John McCain, who was "clear and precise" about U.S. support for Georgia.

"So, during this administration, we've enjoyed interest, cooperation, support, and appropriate political wording of all of this significant attitude and support in respect to Georgia," he said.

Source: margvelashvili-pence-nato-trump/28655330.html

Copyright (c) 2017. 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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