President George W. Bush reiterated the U.S. support to Georgia and said after talks with visiting Georgian counterpart on July 5 that his friend, Mikheil Saakashvili, “wouldn't be sitting here if I didn't have Georgia on my mind.”
“We had a very good discussion about a variety of topics. I assured the President that Georgia is our friend and we care deeply about the people of Georgia,” Bush said at a joint news conference held after hour-long talks in the White House.
“America must always listen to requests for help, and specifically to Georgia,” he added.
Saakashvili said that the upcoming G8 summit scheduled for July 15-17 in St. Petersburg was also discussed during the talks.
“Certainly, there are lots of issues that are at stake there,” Saakashvili said.
Officials in Tbilisi expect that secessionist conflicts will also be on the agenda of the summit. The issue was already discussed at the G8 Foreign Ministerial meeting in Moscow on June 29.
President Bush has also pledged the U.S. support for Georgia’s NATO aspiration, but noted that “Georgia has got work to do, and the President [Saakashvili] understands that.”
“I believe that NATO would benefit with Georgia being a member of NATO, and I think Georgia would benefit. And there's a way forward through the Membership Action Plan. And we will work with our partners in NATO to see if we can't make the path a little smoother for Georgia,” Bush said.
Like in May, 2005 – when Bush visited Georgia – the two Presidents spoke much about freedom agenda after talks on July 5 as well.
“He [President Saakashvili] is a man who shares the same values I share. He believes in the universality of freedom. He believes that democracy is the best way to yield the peace. The Georgian government and the people of Georgia have acted on those beliefs,” the U.S. President said.
“Mr. President, you've got hard work ahead of you. You've tackled problems with vigor and enthusiasm. But, most importantly, you've stayed true to a philosophy that I admire,” Bush added.
Mikheil Saakashvili responded by hailing the U.S policy to promote democracy and freedom globally.
“Your freedom agenda does, indeed, work. I mean, you can see it in Georgia. We are seeing it in Iraq. And please stay there, please fight there until the end. We will stay with you there,” Saakashvili said.
The U.S. President hailed Georgian authorities efforts to create “an economic climate that fosters growth and opportunity” and praised fight against corruption.
“One of the most robust Millennium Challenge Account projects is with Georgia. It should be a sign to the people of Georgia, and people in the neighborhood, that the United States respects the decisions this government has made, and wants to work closely with the people of Georgia,” Bush said.
The U.S. President has also hailed Georgia’s contribution to the coalition forces in Iraq. Currently, there are more than 850 Georgian troops stationed in Iraq making Georgia one of the most significant contributors to the coalition forces in terms of a country's per capita troop deployment.
Agenda of the press conference envisaged four questions – two from the Georgian and two from the American journalists. Both of the questions coming from the U.S. reporters asked to the U.S. President concerned situation with North Korea's missile tests.
But President Saakashvili also commented and said that lots of people should be in North Korea striving for freedom and liberty.
He recalled a story when 70 years ago a group of Georgians sent a letter to the U.S. government urging for help to fight Bolsheviks, but the letter never reached the White House as “it was intercepted by KGB.”
“I'm sure lots of people out there in Korea are writing similar letters today. And I'm sure that North Korean missiles will never reach the United States, but those letters will, eventually, very soon, because that's a part of the freedom agenda that President Bush has and we strongly believe in,” Saakashvili said.
President Saakashvili will meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on July 6.
President Saakashvili is accompanied by Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili, presidential aide for the Abkhaz conflict issues Irakli Alasania, Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Defense and Security MP Nika Rurua and president’s senior advisor Daniel Kunin.