US Secretary of Defense in Georgia: Russia must abide by the 2008 agreement
US Defense Secretary in Georgia
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is on an official visit to Georgia. Speaking at the briefing, he stated that Russia must abide by the 2008 agreement and withdraw its troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Austin said this, answering a journalist’s question about the possible participation of Georgia in the “3 + 3 format” (Russia, Turkey, Iran + Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia) and whether it will harm the process of Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
“Russia, which occupies 20% of Georgia’s territory, must abide by the 2008 ceasefire agreement before talking about any new platform”, Austin said.
“3 + 3 format” and Georgia
The idea of a 3 + 3 format was put forward by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the war in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020.
The format provides for the creation of a platform of six countries, in which the governments of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Iran should take part, as Erdogan says, to establish peace in the region.
Until now, the Georgian side has refused to participate in the platform of 6 countries. However, Erdogan confirmed this initiative during a visit to Azerbaijan in June 2021. Then the Turkish President said that peace in the Caucasus could be achieved through regional cooperation and that this would benefit the whole world.
“Not only Azerbaijan, but all the countries of the region, including Armenia, as well as the whole world, will benefit from peace and tranquility in the Caucasus”, Erdogan said.
On October 9, Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani said on the air of Public Broadcasting that Georgia should “in some form” participate in the 3 + 3 format.
However, on the same day, the Foreign Ministry denied the minister’s statement, saying that David Zalkaliani’s comment was misinterpreted.
The ministry said that in an interview with the Public Television and Radio Broadcasting of Georgia, the minister did not say that Georgia should be represented in such a format.
Results of the visit of the US Defense Minister to Georgia
During his visit to Tbilisi, Lloyd Austin, together with Georgian Defense Minister Juansher Burchuladze, signed an initiative to strengthen defense and deterrence for Georgia.
According to the Minister of Defense, this initiative serves to strengthen the Armed Forces of Georgia and strengthen partnerships with Georgia and the United States.
“This marks an exciting new stage in our bilateral security cooperation between our countries. We will definitely use the Georgian Defense Readiness Program as a base, facilitate Georgia’s interaction with NATO, modernize and develop the Georgian Ministry of Defense and the Georgian Armed Forces. This initiative will advance and support our shared security interests and further strengthen our partnership in the future”, said Lloyd Austin.
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Austin said the Memorandum of Understanding highlights a long-standing US Department of Defense policy to help Georgia defend, contain aggression, and move towards Euro-Atlantic integration:
“The Georgian government must do its part to leverage the support of the United States and strengthen democracy in Georgia to carry out the reforms needed to bring Georgia closer to the West”.
The US Secretary of Defense also wrote on his Twitter about the signed initiative, noting that the initiative underscores US efforts to strengthen Georgia.
Speaking at the press conference, Austin also addressed the Caucasus region, stating that it is an important region in which the United States and Georgia have common interests.
“We have common values, we see a number of opportunities for continuing cooperation in the security sphere. Again, I am here to acknowledge the importance we attach to our partnership.
As for the contribution of Georgia to both Iraq and Afghanistan. I reiterate the important role that Georgia played side by side with us. I served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I can tell you from my own experience that Georgia has a great army. As you know, these two wars do not define our relationship. We have common interests that we will continue to work on. Once again I want to assure Georgia and the whole world of the excellent relations that we have developed”, the US Secretary of Defense said.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Georgia today. He will be holding meetings in Georgia, Romania and Ukraine in front of the NATO ministerial on October 21-22.
The main purpose of the Tbilisi meetings is to promote defense cooperation as the three-year US Army training program expires this year.
Today it became known that Moscow is closing the Russian representation of NATO. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the delegation will suspend its work from November 1. From November 1, the work of the NATO office in Moscow will also be suspended.
According to Lavrov, in order to communicate with Moscow, the alliance can contact the Russian embassy in Belgium.
“Russia no longer wishes to change relations with NATO in the near future”, Lavrov said.