Clinton reiterates support for Georgia

Ahead of talks with her Russian counterpart Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made clear Washington’s continuing stand on its relations with Georgia, saying, Washington’s engagement with Moscow in no way lessened its support for Tbilisi.

She was answering questions on the future of US-EU relations and other matters from a group of young political activists in the European Parliament in Brussels.

“Our engagement with Russia in no way undermines our support for countries like Georgia or the Baltics or the Balkans to be independent, free, make their own decisions or shape their own course without undue interference from Russia,” Clinton told students and youth from the EU and political institutions across Europe.

The West’s ties with Moscow were strained after a brief war last August in which Russia delivered a humiliating blow to Georgia and subsequently recognized the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The United States, NATO, and the EU are on way to gradually renewing normal relations with Russia.

Clinton is scheduled to have crucial talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva, which will be their first meeting as top diplomats of their respective countries.

“We think there are a number of areas where there can be cooperation,” she said, adding, “There are also areas where we strongly disagree.”

Clinton recalled the Bush administration’s “strong condemnation of Russia’s actions in Georgia” last year.

She said the U.S. government was “very troubled by Russia using energy as a tool of intimidation.”

On the other side, Russia is a key member of the international quartet seeking peace in the Middle East, and in the six-party talks on Iran’s nuclear program, she said.

Clinton, making her first trip to Europe since taking office in January, earlier attended an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

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