US 'steadfast' for Georgia's territorial integrity: Clinton

5th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that Washington is "steadfast" in its commitment to Georgia's territorial integrity amid disputes with Russia over two rebel regions.

"The United States is steadfast in its commitment to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Clinton said at a joint press conference with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili during a visit to Tbilisi.

Clinton, who criticised Russia's "occupation" of Georgia's rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, also called for Moscow to abide by a ceasefire agreement that stipulates its forces must return to positions held before the 2008 Georgia-Russia war.

"We continue to call for Russia to abide by the August 2008 ceasefire commitment... including by ending the occupation and withdrawing Russian troops from South Ossetia and Abkhazia to their pre-conflict positions," she said.

Saakashvili said he was encouraged that the US was continuing to stand by Georgia despite its much-vaunted "reset" in relations with Moscow, which had raised concerns in Tbilisi of an abandonment of US support.

"With regard to reset, it's a clear-cut issue that questions were asked. There is no secret about it, of course some people were worried what it might mean," he said.

"We see it's done exactly the right way, it's a value-based policy and that's why we all love America.... Ultimately if reset leads to a more modernised Russia that's only good for all of us."

US officials have repeatedly voiced support for Georgia's territorial integrity after the 2008 war, 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 countries. Russia has since established permanent military bases and deployed hundreds of troops and border guards in the regions.

Clinton was on the final stop of a tour of eastern European and Caucasus region countries that has also taken her to Ukraine, Poland, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

© 2010 AFP

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