Obama to host Georgia president January 30 - Emirates24|7

Obama to host Georgia president January 30

US President Barack Obama will host Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili for talks on key issues including Afghanistan, the White House said.

The Oval Office meeting comes as the two nations mark the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations vital in bolstering the former Soviet republic and countering Moscow's influence in the volatile Caucusus region.

The two presidents "will discuss further strengthening the US-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership by enhancing cooperation in the fields of trade, tourism, energy, science, education, culture, and security," the White House statement said.

That accord, signed in the wake of a five-day war between Moscow and Tbilisi in August 2008 over the rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, saw a sharp increase in US monetary aid to Georgia.

The White House said Obama would "underscore the importance of our defense cooperation with Georgia, including Georgia's substantial contributions to international security operations in Afghanistan."

Last month the Georgian parliament voted to almost double deployments to Afghanistan, making it -- with almost 1,700 troops -- the largest non-NATO contributor.

Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent after the 2008 war, a move condemned by Georgia's Western allies and only followed by a handful of other states.

Obama on January 30 "will reconfirm US support for the integrity of Georgia's territory within its internationally recognized borders," the White House statement added.

In a sign of a possible thaw in November, Tbilisi and Moscow sealed a rare deal that removed the final obstacle for Russia's 18-year bid to join the World Trade Organization.

The United States has meanwhile expressed frustration at the slow pace of democratic reforms in Georgia.

Saakashvili, who has been accused by opposition critics of flouting democratic principles and centralizing power, has promised to continue the reform process.

Obama and Saakashvili last met in January 2011, in Washington, at the funeral of veteran US diplomat Richard Holbrooke.

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