U.S. backs Georgia bid to join NATO

May 2, 2013 at 9:25 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 2 (UPI) -- The United States supports Georgia as it works to establish a closer relationship with NATO, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Kerry met in Washington with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Kerry praised the role Georgia plays in providing the largest number of troops to the Afghan campaign of any non-NATO member.

Saakashvili said he wanted U.S. support for its bid to join the alliance, saying moving closer to the West was "crucial" for his country's survival.

"We are very supportive of Georgia's aspirations with respect to NATO and Europe," Kerry said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered snap military maneuvers in the Black Sea in March. The drill coincided with a decision by the government of Georgia to refuse a draft non-aggression pact from Russian regarding the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Georgia and Russian fought briefly in 2008 over the territories. Russia defended the drills as preparation for next year's Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

Kerry visited Georgia during the waning days of the 2008 conflict.

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