(Civil.Ge) — Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States, concluded his two-day visit to Georgia, where he met with the country’s leaders and addressed the U.S.-led Noble Partner military exercise in Vaziani, south of Tbilisi.
On August 1, on the second day of his visit to Tbilisi, the U.S. Vice President held bilateral talks with Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and discussed U.S.-Georgia cooperation, including in the fields of security and defense.
Speaking at the joint press conference after the meeting, Mike Pence reiterated President Donald Trump’s message to Georgia: “we are with you, we stand with you.” “We are proud of our friendship and strategic partnership with the nation and the people of Georgia,” Pence noted, adding that “America First does not mean America alone.”
In his remarks, Vice President Pence touched upon the Georgian-American security cooperation, saying that the country is “a key strategic partner of the United States of America.” “Nowhere is the bond between our two nations stronger than in our shared effort to promote security and stability across the wider world,” he said and added that “since 2004, thousands of Georgians have served shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans – in Kosovo, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan.”
The Vice President spoke on the Kremlin’s Georgia policy as well. Noting that the Russian Federation continues to occupy one-fifth of Georgian territory, VP Pence said “the United States of America strongly condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgia’s soil.”
“The United States supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and under President Donald Trump, the United States of America will reject any claim, at any time, by any nation that undermines this enduring principle,” he stated.
On NATO, VP Pence said President Trump and himself “stand by the 2008 NATO Bucharest statement, which made it clear that Georgia will one day become a member of NATO.” “As I expressed to the Prime Minister, it is heartening to see that Georgia already exceeds NATO’s goal of spending 2 percent of its gross domestic product on its national defense,” he added.
Vice President Pence spoke on Georgia’s NATO aspirations in his address to the Noble Partner exercise participants as well. “We stand with the nation and the people of Georgia, and we will stand with you as you pursue membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” he told several hundred Georgian and American troops at the Vaziani training area.
“The strategic partnership between the United States and Georgia is stronger now than ever before, and this joint exercise is a tangible sign of our commitment to each other to make it stronger still,” he also noted there, pledging to “continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and work hand-in-hand with you to fortify your defense, to strengthen your democracy, and to deepen your ties of friendship with Europe and the United States.”
As part of the visit, the Vice President held a meeting with representatives of the opposition groups, including the United National Movement, the European Georgia, the Free Democrats and the Development Movement. He also met with President Giorgi Margvelashvili and visited the Sioni Cathedral in Old Tbilisi, where he met with Ilia II, Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Georgia is part of his diplomatic tour in Eastern Europe. Before Georgia, Pence visited Estonia, where he met with Presidents of the three Baltic states. From Georgia, the Vice President departed for Montenegro.