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Tbilisi Says Partnership Deal with U.S. Under Discussion
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 17 Dec.'08 / 14:09

Georgia and the United States are working on moving bilateral relations on to “a new stage,” that will provide security guarantees for Georgia, Batu Kutelia, who is set to become Georgia’s new ambassador to the U.S. said on December 17.

“The new stage of relations will have its framework and forms; we will know soon what type of framework that will be. Currently preparatory works are ongoing,” Kutelia, a former deputy defense minister, told Imedi TV.

“We have our ideas, which we share with our American colleagues. They also have their ideas. This will of course be linked with the new U.S. administration, but we want to maximally use this transition period for laying ground for that type of relations.”

In separate remarks aired by Rustavi 2 TV on the same day, Kutelia said that such agreement would be “the only guarantee for our security and territorial integrity, because the United States is today the strongest international actor.”

“Active talks are underway on the framework agreement with the involvement of the Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry,” Nino Kalandadze, the Georgian deputy foreign minister, said on December 17.

Mathew Bryza, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, said on December 16 in Tbilisi that Georgia and the United States were working on how to reflect bilateral strategic partnership in actual actions.

“What we talked about in details [with the Georgian officials] was U.S.-Georgian cooperation on security and strategic partnership,” he said. “We are still working through how to reflect the beautiful words – strategic partnership – in our actual actions, in our actual life.”

It was the Georgian side, which first broke news about possible bilateral deal with the United States.  The Georgian daily, 24 Saati (24 Hours), reported on December 15 that the draft of the agreement existed. “Information has been leaked that this agreement will be signed between Tbilisi and Washington in the nearest future,” the newspaper wrote.

Then lawmakers from the parliamentary minority spoke about the issue with journalists after meeting with Bryza on December 16.

“Bilateral cooperation, which may also include political-military cooperation is necessary and we call on the governments of both the United States and Georgia to immediately start working on the matter,” MP from Christian-Democratic Party, Levan Vepkhvadze, a vice-speaker of the Parliament, said.
An influential lawmaker from the ruling party, MP Givi Targamadze, who chairs the parliamentary committee for defense and security, said on the same day that it would be a comprehensive agreement that would involve “actually all the spheres.”

“And what is the most attractive and important for us now, it also involves the military cooperation; it involves issues related with further equipment and development of our armed forces and also – I will put it with words as formulated in the draft – all measures to jointly tackle threats,” MP Givi Targamadze said.

Speaking at a news conference later on December 16, Bryza said that the goal was to help Georgia meet NATO’s requirements on military-security and democratic reforms. “Beyond that I’d rather not to get in any detail, because we are still developing our ideas,” he said, but also added that no agreement existed yet.

Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of the opposition New Rights Party, said on December 16 that caution was needed about the matter, “as we may further endanger Georgia by speaking on the issue, because we are dealing with totally unpredictable and dangerous neighbor – Russia.”

“Russia can react inappropriately even on public statements on this matter,” he said.

“We can’t say no to strategic partnership with our major partner because of fear that Russia may get irritated by that,” Batu Kutelia said.

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