(Sixth paragraph has been revised to reflect following correction: instead of “Secretary of State”, “Secretary of Defense”)
President Saakashvili said “concrete results” of his meeting with President Obama “exceeded our expectations.”
“I am very impressed and satisfied by the results of this meeting,” he said in remarks made separately for the Georgian journalists after leaving the White House, following his talks with the U.S. President on January 30.
He said it was the most fruitful talks he had ever had in the Oval Office. Saakashvili met twice with President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, at the White House – first in July, 2006 and then in March 2008.
In his remarks outside the White House, Saakashvili emphasized on what he called “elevating” defense cooperation with the U.S. “on new level”.
“We are talking about elevating cooperation in the defense sphere on to the new level; if in previous years we were talking only about anti-terrorism operations and our participation in peacekeeping operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, now we are talking about cooperating with the United States on developing Georgia’s self-defense capabilities. We will continue working on these issues; very concrete meetings have been planned and this is new, higher level of our cooperation in the military and security issues,” Saakashvili said.
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Georgia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Temur Yakobashvili, told Rustavi 2 TV, that it had been agreed that during the ongoing visit the Georgian delegation would hold talks with the relevant U.S. authorities to discuss issues related to “bringing Georgia’s self-defense capabilities to a new level”, which would help Georgia “to better defend ourselves.” Yakobashvili also said that a meeting between the Georgian Defense Minister and the U.S. Secretary of Defense would also be held “in the nearest future.”
President Saakashvili said that another key issue discussed during the talks with his U.S. counterpart was economic cooperation.
“President Obama has announced about the readiness to support new format of economic cooperation, which means a prospect for U.S.-Georgia free trade agreement. We should understand that this is unimaginably important issue for Georgia’s economy,” Saakashvili said.
“As you’ve heard, President Obama supports our integration to NATO; of course this is an issue, which requires broader discussions, because it also involves other member states of NATO, but the U.S. support is very, very important,” the Georgian President said.
“And you’ve heard how positively and eloquently he spoke about Georgia’s democratic achievements, about the reforms we have carried out, including in respect of protecting minority rights and development of democracy… Of course the next elections will be further continuation of what is already achieved and the President [Obama] clearly said what Georgia had already achieved is a success not only for Georgia, but also an important symbol for the entire region,” Saakashvili said.