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Saakashvili meets Obama

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, January 17
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili met the US President Barack Obama on January 14, the administrations of the two leaders reported. The meeting took place after the memorial service for Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan under the Obama administration. Saakashvili and Obama discussed Georgia’s efforts to advance its economic development and increase trade before discussing challenges in the Caucasus and the work of ISAF forces in Afghanistan “where brave Georgians stand shoulder to shoulder with American forces,” the White House reported.

Barack Obama reiterated Washington’s “firm political support” towards Georgia, the Georgian President’s administration stated. The two presidents agreed about a meeting in an extended format, Saakashvili’s press service wrote in a special statement. “The US President ordered the Security Council to continue cooperation on specific issues raised by the Georgian leader and to report on the results of cooperation,” the statement reads “The Georgian President thanked Barack Obama for the support which Georgia receives from the United States,” it continues. The meeting behind closed doors between the two leaders was held with the initiative of the White House, Saakashvili’s administration said.

Apart from the US President, the Georgian leader met with the newly elected Speaker of the US house of Representatives John Boehner, the Republican Congressmen David Dreier and Bill Shuster, Senators Hoe Lieberman and Richard Lugar and Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin in frames of his visit to the United States.

Saakashvili was the first foreign leader to meet with the US House of Representatives Speaker, John Boehner. The meeting took place on January 12. Boehner reaffirmed support for Georgia’s “freedom and democracy,” the official statement released by Boehner’s office said. “We had a constructive conversation about the importance of ensuring Georgia’s commitment to freedom and democracy is not undermined,” Boehner stated “The United States has long seen it as a moral duty to assist those who seek the blessings of self-government for themselves. That is why the American people will continue to stand with others struggling for democracy over the forces of despotism, dignity over degradation, and freedom over subjugation,” he added.

Saakashvili spoke live on BBC about Richard Holbrooke, his merits during Russian-Georgian war, as well as about the post war situation in the country. “Holbrook was an amazing and charming person,” the Georgian President said. “Richard Holbrooke was an idealist but he proved that an idealist could be efficient. I remember troops were coming and people were saying what should we do and someone advising Government should leave and there were some people advising because Vladimir Putin promised that he hang me by some part of my body, you should quit the place and Richard was standing by me and we were not going anywhere.

But he was there and he was saying to me: ‘I am standing here with you , will be till the end, but you should fight if they come here you fight till the last drop of blood, you fight for your freedom", and this was the man who wanted peace,” Saakashvili told BBC.

Answering the question of the journalist if the START treaty between US and Russia is “complicating” Tbilisi’s relations with Washington, Saakashvili replied that “I think there are no illusions in this town [Washington] about Russia and that there is obviously a desire to engage Russia in important issues. We fully understand that. On the other hand, in our case, Russia occupies 20 percent of our territory, we have 500 000 internally displaced persons, they don’t recognize our borders, they don’t recognize my Government, they want us officially out and they don’t recognize the ceasefire agreement which they signed themselves.” The Georgian President pointed out that America “is standing” with Georgia. “President Obama said today about America – it is about ideas, not much about geography and I think this is very important,” Saakashvili added.