President Obama and President Saakashvili met in Lisbon on sideline of NATO summit on November 19, 2010. The meeting, long sought by the Georgian leader, was the first one-on-one talks between the two Presidents. Photo: White House/Pete Souza
President Obama will host his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili for a meeting in the Oval Office on January 30 to discuss issues ranging from defense cooperation to parliamentary elections scheduled in Georgia later this year.
This is the first time President Obama invited President Saakashvili for an official visit and a meeting at the Oval Office.
The first face-to-face meeting between the two presidents was held in Lisbon on sideline of NATO summit in November, 2010. The two presidents briefly met in January, 2011 after the two leaders attended a memorial service for a veteran U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke in Washington.
The White House said on Tuesday, that 2012 marks 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between U.S. and Georgia and the two presidents would discuss further strengthening the U.S.-Georgia charter on strategic partnership, signed in 2009, “by enhancing cooperation in the fields of trade, tourism, energy, science, education, culture, and security.”
"President Obama will underscore the importance of our defense cooperation with Georgia, including Georgia’s substantial contributions to international security operations in Afghanistan," the White House said.
"The President will reconfirm U.S. support for the integrity of Georgia’s territory within its internationally recognized borders."
"The President also looks forward to discussing upcoming elections in Georgia and the reforms that will ensure Georgia’s continuing transformation into a vibrant and stable democratic state." the White House said.
President Saakashvili will “propose ways to enhance cooperation” with Washington in the context of U.S.-Georgia charter on strategic partnership when he meets President Obama at the White House, the Georgian president’s administration said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The two leaders will discuss a broad range of issues, from the deepening cooperation between Georgia and the United States to their common approach to international security challenges,” it said. “In the two decades since Georgia gained independence, U.S. support has been crucial for Georgia's sovereignty, its democratic transformation, its economic development, and its progress towards NATO membership.”
“We are very pleased this meeting has been scheduled; we’ve got a lot to talk about,” John Bass, the U.S. ambassador to Tbilisi, said on January 18.
He said that among the issues planned to be discussed during Saakashvili’s upcoming visit to the United States would be “those that are perennially at the top of our agenda, which is our shared partnership to address coming security challenges,” both in this region and beyond, like in Afghanistan, where Georgia plans to increase its troops contribution to about 1,685 this year.
“We will also be talking about the ways that the United States can continue to support ongoing reform efforts here in Georgia so that the people of this country not only continue to have the freedom to choose their own futures, but also can do so in an environment, where they can achieve greater prosperity and have the freedom as well to choose their own future leaders,” Ambassador Bass said.
U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is expected to visit Georgia this year.