Georgia, US to sign strategic accord Jan 4: Tbilisi

13:47, 25 December 2008
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It risks again provoking Russian wrath against Tbilisi

Georgia and the United States will on January 4 sign a strategic partnership treaty that risks again provoking Russian wrath against Tbilisi, the Georgian foreign ministry said on Thursday, AFP reported.

"Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigol Vashadze and the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will sign a strategic partnership treaty on January 4 in Washington," foreign ministry spokeswoman Khatuna Iosava told AFP.

The accord, similar to a strategic agreement Washington has recently signed with Ukraine, risks raising tensions with Russia, which earlier this year fought a brief war with Georgia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

The US 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.

The United States and Ukraine on December 19 signed a similar strategic accord that calls for a US diplomatic post in Crimea, a Russian-speaking area where Russia`s Black Sea Fleet is based.

NATO ministers agreed at a meeting earlier this month to boost ties with both Georgia and Ukraine, but without granting them the status of official candidates to join the alliance.

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

Russian forces later withdrew to within South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, which Moscow simultaneously recognised as independent states.

AFP

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