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Calls on the U.S. to continue to deepen and strengthen its relationship with this critical Eurasian ally

(Washington, D.C.)-U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs and the Co-Chair of the Atlantic Council Task Force on Georgia, today issued the below statement following her meeting with Mr. Nikoloz "Nika" Gilauri, the Prime Minister of Georgia.

"Prime Minister Gilauri and I had a constructive meeting in which we discussed a wide range of issues affecting U.S.-Georgian relations, including the economic and political reform process, trade, investment, U.S. assistance, and regional security issues," said Senator Shaheen.

"I commended Georgia for its significant military commitment in Afghanistan.  Today, Georgian soldiers are fighting and dying alongside NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, and I expressed my deepest condolences for the five Georgian soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan last month.  Our country's thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed. 

"We discussed at length the ongoing illegitimate occupation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  The U.S. will continue to strongly support Georgia's sovereignty, independence, and its territorial integrity.  I would like to affirm recent statements by the White House and Secretary of State Clinton calling on Russia to abide by its August 2008 cease-fire commitments, to withdraw Russian troops to their pre-conflict positions, and to allow for the full return of internally-displaced persons to the occupied territories. 

"As we work on a long-term, non-military solution to reintegration, I would urge the Georgian government and the de facto authorities in the occupied regions to engage in constructive cooperative efforts and confidence-building measures to reduce tensions and foster a foundation for enduring peace and stability in this important region.

"Georgia is a critical ally for the United States, and we will remain committed to deepening and strengthening this important bilateral relationship."

In August 2010, Senator Shaheen - along with Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) - agreed to co-chair a high-level, bipartisan task force on Georgia.  The task force, sponsored by the Atlantic Council, was launched on the second anniversary of the Russia-Georgia war and aims to encourage a bipartisan consensus on policy toward Georgia.  Over the coming months, the task force will develop recommendations for policy-makers in Washington, Tbilisi, and Brussels.

In agreeing to lead this effort, Senators Shaheen and Graham offered, "We need a new effort to forge a renewed bipartisan consensus on how to support Georgia's reforms, preserve its territorial integrity and advance its aspirations, while preventing renewed conflict in the region."

In August 2009, on the first anniversary of the Russia-Georgia war, Senator Shaheen, as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, convened a hearing examining U.S. policies in the Caucasus region and assessing the political, economic, and security situation in Georgia in light of ongoing instability and the continued presence of Russian troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.