Stoltenberg Expresses NATO Support For Georgia, Urges Russian Troop Pullout

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Speaking on the last day of NATO's foreign ministers' conference in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that the alliance was committed to the security of Georgia, a former Soviet republic that has battled the Russia-backed separatist movements of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Foreign ministers from Europe and North America will examine new ways to increase the interoperability between NATO and the European Union as they meet in Brussels this week.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday there could be no normal relations with Russian Federation until Moscow ended its support for separatists in Ukraine and returned Crimea, in comments likely to reassure Western allies.

Jens Stoltenberg insisted that a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation foreign ministers in Brussels this week would not be distracted by doubts over Tillerson's future. "We have strengthened our collective defense, at the same time remaining open to dialogue", - said Stoltenberg. "We call on Russian Federation to end its recognition of these regions and withdraw its forces from Georgian territory".

Stoltenberg said the alliance partnership with Georgia is outstanding.

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The move follows Nato's announcement in February that it was stepping up its air and maritime presence in the Black Sea, as part of deterrence measures following the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea in 2014. "Our forces serve side by side in Afghanistan and train side by side in Georgia", the secretary general said.

In late July, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Georgia in a trip timed to correspond with the Noble Partner 2017 military exercises that featured some 1,600 U.S., 800 Georgian, and other allied troops in a show of defiance to Moscow.

"In other words, NATO's support to Georgia is concrete and is making a real difference", he said.

The Secretary General also noted that NATO Foreign Ministers discussed "progress Georgia continues to make along the path of reform, including with its successful efforts to modernize its armed forces".

The Commission, held at the level of Foreign Ministers at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, examined the NATO-Georgia cooperation and the security situation facing the country, including the challenges in and around the Black Sea.

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