TBILISI -- The head of a U.S. Senate delegation in Tbilisi says Washington should not "sacrifice Georgia's future" in order to have better relations with Moscow, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports.
Senator Jon Kyl (Republican-Arizona) told RFE/RL in an interview on April 19 that "the [U.S.] relationship with Russia should stand on its own and not have to be improved by any kind of sacrifice of the interests of our allies and our friends and we [Republicans] are very adamant that that not be done."
He added that "in that regard we have some differences with the [U.S.] administration."
Kyl, who is on a two-day visit with three other U.S. senators to Georgia, met with President Mikheil Saakashvili, Deputy Parliament Chairman Gigi Tsereteli, Security Council Secretary Giga Bokeria, opposition officials, and representatives of the European Union's monitoring mission in Georgia.
Kyl said the main goal of the delegation's trip to Georgia, Ukraine, and the three Baltic states is to find out what impact the "reset" policy of President Barack Obama's administration has on the security of the United States' East European allies.
Kyl said the senators discussed during their meetings the issues confronting Georgia, including national security, "challenges posed by Russia," electoral reform, and a possible free-trade agreement between Tbilisi and Washington.
He said Georgia is "moving very quickly to show an example to other [countries] how democracy can improve a country's future...[and] we want to encourage that."
Kyl said U.S. officials understand that "there are huge challenges" ahead for Georgia and that officials in Tbilisi "acknowledge that not everything's perfect and they have a long way to go."
He told RFE/RL that, speaking as a Republican member of the U.S. Congress, "I hope...[the United States] would not sacrifice Georgia's future to some theoretical value of a 'reset' relationship with Russia...no country or people should be a pawn in that relationship -- sacrificed by the United States -- because of our desire to have better relations with Russia."
Kyl said if ensuring Georgia's security "means the acquisition of defensive weaponry" then he supports it. He said it is important for Washington to express its support for Georgia's desire to become a NATO member.
"The issue of the Russian invasion [in 2008] is not something that sits well with a lot of [U.S. politicians]," Kyl said. "I know some would like to downplay it because it exacerbates tensions between the U.S. and Russia and nobody likes those tensions. But you have to look at the hard reality as well. So I think the U.S. can both support its friends and at the same time seek better relations with Russia without sacrificing its friends."
Kyl said the issue of Georgia's relations with Iran was discussed "to some extent." He added that "Georgia lives in its neighborhood. As long as the relationship between Georgia and Iran is one that is not inimical to U.S. interests, obviously we don't have any problems with those relationships being developed."