The United States and Georgia launched on June 22 a joint council to work on implementation of provisions laid out in Charter on Strategic Partnership signed between the two countries on January 9, 2009.
The first meeting of the council was held in Washington under the chairmanship of Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg. Initially Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was expected to represent the U.S. at the meeting, but she was still recovering from elbow surgery.
Deputy Secretary of State Steinberg said at a joint news conference with the Georgian Foreign Minister after the meeting that the council marked “a new chapter of our longstanding and deep friendship between our two countries.”
“It’s a historic day for Georgia, like it was when we signed the charter. It is one single most important agreement in modern history of our country, signed since we regained our independence,” Foreign Minister Vashadze said.
The Charter on Strategic Partnership covers four areas of cooperation involving defense and security; trade and economy; democracy and people-to-people contacts and cultural exchange. Respective four working groups have been set up to address these four areas of cooperation.
“These meetings underscore the commitment that we have to implementing the important agreement – our charter with Georgia, as we deepen this strategic partnership,” Steinberg said.
On defense cooperation he said that the United States would continue supporting Georgia’s “military professionalization and to help Georgia as it contributes to coalition operations and undertake the reforms that will be required to achieve NATO membership.”
He said that Georgia’s planned participation in operation in Afghanistan was also a part of the discussions.
The Deputy Secretary of State reiterated that Washington appreciated Georgian government’s “restraint in response to the recent street protests.”
“And we continue to work with Georgia to help strengthen its democracy and its reforms,” he added.
Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Giga Bokeria, told Georgian journalists in Washington that timing of the launch of the joint council to implement the charter was of special importance for Georgia as it came ahead of President Obama’s planned meeting with his Russian counterpart, when he visits Moscow on July 6-8.
The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State said that Obama-Medvedev meeting would be a chance not only to deepen relations between the two countries, but also “to make sure that the U.S.-Russia relationship contributes to the security and prosperity of all the countries in the Euro-Atlantic area.”
“We believe very strongly that by building a better relationship, if we can, with Russia, it will contribute to the well-being and security of countries like Georgia. And that would be very much our aim. We do not see our relationship with Russia in any way as detracting from or at the expense of the security or well-being of any of the countries in the region, any of our partners,” Steinberg added.
Foreign Minister Vashadze said that the next meeting of the council would be held in late October or in early November in Tbilisi.