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Cheney condemns Russia, supports Georgia

By Eter Tsotniashvili
Friday, September 5
US Vice President Dick Cheney has condemned Russia’s recent actions in Georgia and stated that the attempt to change Georgia’s borders last month was “illegitimate.”

“This attempt has been universally condemned by the free world. Russia’s actions have cast great doubt on Russia’s intentions and on its reliability as an international partner, not just in Georgia but across this region and indeed throughout the international system.” Cheney said.

In a joint news briefing with President Saakashvili in Avlabari, Cheney stated that the whole free world is today responsible for helping and supporting Georgia, moreover as Georgia itself sent troops in Iraq in order to defend that young democracy. Cheney emphasised that the US fully supports Georgia’s territorial integrity and said that it calls for a peaceful resolution of the dispute over the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The Vice President, a highly influential politician who is known for making critical statements about Russia, highlighted that Georgia should integrate with the NATO alliance as soon as possible and stated that “America is fully committed to Georgia's Membership Action Plan for NATO, and to its eventual membership in the Alliance.” He also expressed his pleasure at the establishment of the NATO-Georgia Commission. “As the current members of NATO declared at the Summit in Bucharest, Georgia will be in our alliance. NATO is a defensive alliance. It is a threat to no one. Indeed, NATO is one of the greatest forces for freedom, security and peace that the modern world has known,” Cheney said.

The Vice President talked about the humanitarian aid that the US has given Georgia, and officially confirmed that America has made a decision to allocate USD 1 billion for Georgia. “The United States has already provided nearly $30 million in humanitarian assistance, including more than 1,200 tonnes of food and supplies. And yesterday in Washington, President Bush announced another billion dollars in economic assistance to Georgia, as part of America's contribution to the broader international effort called for by the European Union,” he said, adding that these funds will mainly be used for reconstruction, humanitarian needs, the resettlement of displaced persons and other vital priorities.

Cheney also invoked the Rose Revolution. "After your nation won its freedom in the Rose Revolution, America came to the aid of this courageous young democracy," Cheney said, referring to the peaceful action in November 2003 when current President Saakashvili and his allies forced former President Eduard Shevardnadze to resign.

Standing alongside Cheney, President Saakashvili said Georgia was grateful for America’s aid, which matched his government's estimate of war damages. He said that the light of freedom can never be extinguished in Georgia and the country is stronger than ever before.

“We may be small as a nation, but our hearts and spirits are not, and our love of freedom is even bigger, and as many challenges as lie ahead of us, we are willing to tackle and take,” Saakashvili said.

He also called on the world not to accept ethnic cleansing.

“They [Russians and Ossetians] are trying to legalize their ethnic cleansing. But if anybody in the world could try to legalize or accept what has happened, they would be condoning the human tragedies of hundreds of thousands of people - more than half a million actually, thrown out of their houses, deprived of their livelihoods, deprived of their right to not only to return but even to see their own houses because of their wrong ethnic origin, their wrong loyalty,” he said, adding that ethnic cleansing not only of Georgians but also ethnic Ossetians who were considered disloyal took place in South Ossetia.

At the end of his speech Saakashvili stressed that Georgia is not alone and has many partners all over the world. "Together with our partners, in Europe, America and elsewhere, we will rebuild Georgia," Saakashvili said. "We feel that we are not alone.”