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Georgian FM: Tillerson Offered 'Full Support' Of U.S. In Standoff Over Breakaway Regions

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right) meets with Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., on February 10.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right) meets with Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., on February 10.

WASHINGTON -- Georgia's foreign minister says that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed Washington's firm support for the ex-Soviet nation's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Mikheil Janelidze made the comments outside the State Department following his meeting with Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO picked by President Donald Trump to serve as the top U.S. diplomat.

Trump's calls for closer ties with Moscow have raised concerns in Eastern Europe, where Russia seized Ukraine's Crimea territory in 2014, has backed armed separatists in eastern Ukraine, and continues its support for Georgia's breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

But Janelidze told reporters that Tillerson relayed the Trump administration's support for Tbilisi during their discussions about Georgia's standoff with Russia over the regions.

"We of course spoke about the Russian-Georgian conflict, about the situation in the occupied territories, and once again we received full support from the United States toward our territorial integrity, our sovereignty," Janelidze said.

The United States "is ready to stand by Georgia in all processes that will contribute to our stability, peaceful development, and will guarantee the strength of our state," he added.

Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states after a brief war against Georgia in 2008, though only a handful of countries have followed suit.

Moscow maintains thousands of troops in the regions, deployments that NATO and Western governments say violate the EU-brokered deal that ended the eight-day war.

The State Department did not have a readout of the meeting to share on February 10, a spokesman told RFE/RL.

The meeting came day after Janelidze met with Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in Washington

The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the two men also discussed the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and that the White House "reaffirmed its strong support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as for its European and Euro-Atlantic integration."

With reporting by RFE/RL's Georgian Service
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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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