Pompeo expressed support for Georgia’s sovereignty at Tbilisi talks

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Georgian leaders Wednesday in Tbilisi where he expressed support for Georgia’s sovereignty and strengthening of democratic institutions.

On the latest stop of his multi-nation tour visiting allies in Europe and the Middle East, Pompeo held talks with Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, followed by a session with Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia and Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani.

“U.S. cooperation with Georgia is of paramount importance, and our support for Georgia’s sovereignty in the face of Russian occupation is unwavering,” Pompeo tweeted after the meetings.

Gahkaria called U.S.-Georgia relations his country’s “most important partnership” and said Georgia appreciates U.S. support of its territorial integrity.

Russia has occupied Georgia’s two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia since a brief 2008 war.

The State Department said Pompeo’s focus included urging further progress in democratic reforms in Georgia.  At the start of his meeting with Gakharia and Zalkaliani, Pompeo cited the need for free and fair elections, as well as the opportunity for robust debate.

From Georgia, Pompeo is due to travel to Israel where he will discuss with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Israel’s recent agreements normalizing relations with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani led Bahrain’s first official visit to Israel on Wednesday.  He flew aboard Gulf Air’s first commercial flight to Tel Aviv, and was due to have a series of meetings including trilateral talks with Pompeo and Netanyahu.

“There is a clear keenness on both sides to make this cooperation work and to demonstrate this can have clear, positive benefits for our countries and the region,” Alzayani said at a joint news conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

Ashkenazi said the visit “marks yet another historic day in the Middle East.”

“The region has known too many conflicts and too many wars,” he said.  “It’s time for peace.”

During his visit, Pompeo is expected to go to a settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Most of the international community views the settlements as a violation of international law and a barrier in reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.  In a reversal of a decades-old position, Pompeo has said last year the United States does not view the settlements as “inconsistent with international law.”

The rest of Pompeo’s trip includes stops in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

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