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Obama and Saakashvili Meet

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan., 30, 2012.

President Mikheil Saakashvili and President Obama discussed strengthening the economic relationship between Georgia and the United States.

Georgia is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its independence from the former Soviet Union and the eighth anniversary of the Rose Revolution.

At a recent White House meeting with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, President Barack Obama said “Georgia should be extraordinarily proud of the progress that it has made in building a sovereign and democratic country:”

“One of the first things I did was express my appreciation for the institution-building that’s been taking place in Georgia, the importance of making sure that minorities are respected; the importance of a police and system of rule of law that is being observed – the kinds of institution-building that is going to make an enormous difference in the future of not this generation of Georgians but future generations of Georgians.”

Both leaders discussed how to strengthen the economic relationship between Georgia and the United States. While Georgia has made strides in expanding economic growth, more work can be done. The United States would like to help with that progress. In addition to Millennium Challenge Corporation compacts and Overseas Private Investment Corporation loans, Georgia and the United States have agreed to hold a high-level dialogue on how to enhance U.S.-Georgia trade relations, including exploring the possibility of a free trade agreement.

The United States values Georgia’s contribution to NATO forces in Afghanistan and will continue to deepen defense cooperation. Indeed, President Obama reaffirmed the United States’ support for Georgia’s aspiration to ultimately become a NATO member.

The United States appreciates the example of democracy and transparency that Georgia has been setting, not only in Georgia, but also for the region as a whole. With continued progress over the next several years, said President Obama, “a lot of countries will say to themselves that if Georgia can perform these transformations, then we can as well.”

The United States continues to emphasize the importance of free and fair parliamentary elections later this year in Georgia and presidential elections the following year. A formal transfer of power, said President Obama, will solidify many of the reforms that have already taken place.