US confirms 'bilateral charter' with Georgia being negotiated

09:38, 24 December 2008
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The statement confirmed...

The United States confirmed Tuesday it was negotiating a "bilateral charter" with Georgia similar to the one it recently concluded with Ukraine, a move that risked more Russian ire, according to AFP.

"The United States and Georgia are discussing the text of a new bilateral charter that will outline our enhanced cooperation," the US State Department said in a statement.

The administration of President George W. Bush, which will hand power over to Barack Obama on January 20, hopes the charter will "help Georgia advance security, democratic, and market economic reforms to strengthen Georgia, bolster our partnership, and deepen Georgia`s Euro-Atlantic integration," the statement read.

The statement confirmed comments by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili who referred on Monday in Tbilisi to "a US-Georgian strategic partnership agreement."

Georgia`s Rustavi-2 television reported that the accord was expected to be signed by the end of the year, and that Georgian officials would send a revised version with some amendments to Washington within the next few days.

Similar to the charter signed by the United States and Ukraine on December 19, the deal with Georgia could stoke US tensions with Russia.

Russia sent troops into Georgia, a staunch US ally, in August to repel what they said was a Georgian military attempt to retake South Ossetia, which had received extensive backing from Moscow for years.

Russian forces later withdrew to within the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Moscow recognized as independent states.

A Russian probe on Tuesday alleged Georgia committed genocide during the August conflict. On Monday, Georgia accused Russia of seeking to hide "war crimes" after the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said that it would pull its observers out of the country on January 1.

Washington and Kiev signed a strategic agreement that outlined "enhanced cooperation" between the two countries and called for a US diplomatic post in Crimea, a Russian-speaking area where Russia`s Black Sea Fleet is based.

The US also signed similar strategic partnerships with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1998, when the three countries were seeking to join NATO in the face of fierce opposition from Moscow.

The US-Baltic Charter was seen as a key tool in moving the countries towards membership in NATO, which they joined in 2004.

NATO announced earlier this month it would deepen its cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia without actually granting them the status of official candidates to join the military alliance.

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