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May 26th was Georgian Independence Day and marks the 18th year of Georgia’s re-emergence as an independent state. During the past 18 years, Georgia has worked to develop a country based upon democratic values and a free market economy.
Georgia is now a valuable member of the international community. Yet as Georgia celebrates its independence and all it has accomplished thus far, it continues to face serious challenges to its independence and territorial integrity. After the conflict in August last year, the Russian Federation recognized the independence of separatist regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. No country in the world other than Nicaragua has joined Russia in challenging Georgia’s territorial integrity that way.
The United States supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and continues to work with its international partners in pursuit of Georgia’s reunification. The United States hopes Russia will become a partner in that effort.
To that end, the U.S. regrets recent actions by Russia that contradict the spirit, and indeed the letter, of the ceasefire agreement brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. In particular, the U.S. is concerned by Russia’s refusal to allow the OSCE mission in Georgia to continue.
The United States is also concerned by the April 30th agreement signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the de-facto leaders of Georgia's break-away regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia authorizing Russian troops to guard the boundaries of both regions, which is inconsistent with the August 12th ceasefire agreement. Both actions continue to undermine the security and stability of the region, and to challenge the authority of the elected Georgian government.
The Six Point Agreement of August 12, 2008 ended the 5-day war between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Georgia, and was confirmed by the signatures of both combatants on September 8th. To comply with the agreement, Russia was obliged to return its forces to their pre-war positions. However, Russian forces remain in several areas of Georgia that they did not occupy prior to the conflict, such as the ethnic Georgian Akhalgori district in South Ossetia, and the Upper Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia, and in far greater numbers.
As we celebrate Georgian independence, we look to an international community that supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its member states. In the case of Georgia, the United States calls upon Russia to fulfill the terms it agreed to in August 2008.