Clinton criticises Russian 'occupation' of Georgia

5th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday voiced support for ex-Soviet Georgia and criticised Russia's "occupation" of two breakaway Georgian regions.

"We continue to object to and criticise actions by Russia which we believe are wrong and on the top of the list is the invasion and occupation of Georgia," Clinton told a group of women leaders shortly after arriving in the Georgian capital Tbilisi as part of a regional tour.

"The United States supports the Georgian people, we support Georgian democracy," she said.

Clinton was due to meet later with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who will be looking for reassurances the US has not abandoned support for his country amid a "reset" in relations with Moscow.

Tbilisi is hoping Clinton will take a hard line on Russia's military presence in the rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and that she will reiterate US support for Georgia's hopes of joining the NATO military alliance.

Clinton urged further reforms in Georgia, saying a vibrant democracy and economy were key for Georgia to regain control of the rebel territories.

"The more vibrant, effective a democracy and economy Georgia becomes, a greater contrast there will be between South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia," she said.

US officials have repeatedly voiced support for Georgia's territorial integrity since the country's 2008 war with Russia, which saw Russian forces pour into the country to repel a Georgian military assault on Moscow-backed South Ossetia.

Russia after the war recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, a move that has been followed by only a handful of states. Russia has since established permanent military bases and deployed hundreds of troops and border guards in the regions.

© 2010 AFP

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