Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, reiterated Washington’s strong support for Georgia’s NATO aspiration and territorial integrity and also noted the importance of the continued development of democratic institutions in the country.
Speaking at a joint news conference with President Saakashvili in Tbilisi on July 10, Rice said that the conflicts in Georgia should be resolved peacefully and based on the principle of Georgia’s territorial integrity.
She reiterated her earlier remarks that the United States was concerned over some Russian moves in respect of the breakaway regions, as they did not, she said, contribute to the peaceful resolution of the conflicts.
“It [Russia] needs to be a part of resolving the problem and solving the problem and not contributing to it,” Rice said. “I have said it to the Russians publicly. I have said it privately.”
“The violence needs to stop and whoever is perpetrating it, and I have mentioned this to the president [Saakashvili], there should not be violence,” she added. “It is very important that all parties reject violence as an option. There must be a peaceful solution to the situation in Abkhazia. I believe there are ways to resolve it peacefully.”
She also said that the United States was trying to reinvigorate the peace process in Abkhazia and noted that Mathew Bryza, the U.S. deputy assistance secretary of state, was in Abkhazia recently “to talk about some ideas that might form a foundation for this.”
Rice said that it was needed “to elevate the issue” and discuss it on a higher level.
“I'm going to call for discussions to be held at a higher level, at least at the level of political directors or perhaps beyond that, because this is a serious situation,” Rice said.
“There are ideas about de-escalation; there are ideas about ending isolation of Abkhazia, and Georgians and Abkhazians need to talk directly; so there are many things that can be done and we are going to pursue them,” she said.
Saakashvili said that Tbilisi was trying to reach out to and hold a dialogue with communities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but added that Russia was playing a negative role.
“Russia no longer supports, no longer acknowledges jurisdiction of Georgia on its essential part of territory,” the Georgian president said.
He also said that Russian aircraft had violated on July 8 Georgian airspace and had flown “close to the capital,” which was “a worrisome development.”
“The U.S. role is essential, meaning for promoting peace and for promoting democracy,” Saakashvili said, adding that the two countries shared mutual values of democracy.
Rice, who had earlier met with opposition leaders and civil society representatives, noted the importance of developing democratic institutions in Georgia.
“It is extremely important for Georgia to continue to develop democratic institutions – strong parliament, independent media, strong civil society and independent judiciary – that will ultimately serve as a foundation for democracy in Georgia,” she said.
The secretary of state also reiterated that the United States continued “to firmly support Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations” and in particular granting Georgia NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP).
The president then said to Rice: “I understood you are going to give MAP to us in December” when a NATO foreign ministerial council will discuss Georgia and Ukraine’s progress in this respect.
Saakashvili added that MAP for Georgia and Ukraine in December would represent an important success for the Bush administration.
“We will work on it,” Rice responded.