WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama praised Georgia's leaders for making contributions to strengthen democracy in the former Soviet republic.
Obama issued a statement as Georgia marked the inauguration Saturday of President Giorgi Margvelashvili -- the first time a presidential transition took place as a result of a democratic election in the country's history.
"The path to this day was marked by the contributions of many distinguished political leaders over the past twenty years, including outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili and Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who have both played a vital role in strengthening Georgia's democratic institution," the U.S. president's statement said.
"As we mark this momentous political transition, I call on all of Georgia's political leaders to work together, and continue to work with civil society, to build on this achievement," Obama said.
Margvelashvili, a former minister of education, vowed to move Georgia closer to the European Union and to repair ties with Russia, which were damaged when the two sides fought over the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008.