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Secretary Rumsfeld Press Conference with Acting Georgian President Burdzhanadze

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 05, 2003 12:00 PM EDT
Burdzhanadze:  [Through interpreter.]  (Inaudible.) the United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  [We have] a very important meeting (Inaudible.) significant (Inaudible.).  (Inaudible.) foreign affairs and also (Inaudible.).  (Inaudible.).  Also (Inaudible.) relationship with the United States (Inaudible.).  (Inaudible.).  We thank our guests for (Inaudible.).  And also (Inaudible.) which (Inaudible.).  Thank you again for (Inaudible.) and for (Inaudible.).


     Rumsfeld:  Thank you very much, Madame President.  We have had good meetings with the President and certainly wanted to underscore America's very strong support for stability and security and the territorial integrity here in Georgia.


     As Secretary Powell indicated, the United States agrees that Russia should fulfill its commitments under the Istanbul Accords to withdraw Russian forces from Georgia. 


     Georgia, of course, is a staunch friend of the West and we welcome the Acting President's commitment to hold free and fair elections next month on January 4th.  A credible election process is certainly critical to stability in Georgia and to Georgia's continued integration with the West, and certainly we stand ready to assist Georgia during the period ahead.


     I also expressed our appreciation for Georgia's critical assistance in the Global War on Terror.  During both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Georgia's provided assistance and Georgian Special Forces of course serve alongside coalition troops in Iraq.


     We discussed our ongoing military cooperation and my visit today with the Minister of Defense to the Train and Equip activity which we have been cooperating in.  We believe the Train and Equip program has been a success and we look forward to continuing our cooperation and assisting in the defense reform which has been taking place here in Georgia.  And we look forward to seeing the relationship between our two countries continue to grow in the period ahead.


     Thank you.


     Q:  (Inaudible.)


     Rumsfeld:  Georgia has made a decision to work closely with NATO as members of the Partnership for Peace program.  We believe that's a good decision.  We're delighted that the decision has been reaffirmed by the current leadership.


     NATO, of course, is an alliance of democracies so we look towards the political, the economic, as well as the military reforms that are the kinds of things that will move Georgia's approach more closely to those of the democracies of the West.  There is of course an interagency team from the United States here. The Ambassador who's over there looking very distinguished has been in town and certainly we stand ready to assist with the kinds of reforms that I've characterized.


     Q:  (Inaudible.)


     Rumsfeld:  The United States [... blank spot on tape ...] the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and we're sure that other nations will as well.


     Q:  Is Russia's support for separatist regions in Georgia having (Inaudible.)?


     Rumsfeld:  We've indicated our support for the Istanbul Accords and I think I'll leave it to the government of Georgia to provide their views and characterize it the way they wish.  I know that the Ambassador, Lynn Pascoe, and our U.S. Ambassador here both had visits very recently with some of the individuals involved.  You could probably pose those questions to them.


     Q:  (Inaudible.)


     Burdzhanadze:  (Inaudible.) officials from Russia (Inaudible.).  The (Inaudible.).  There are separate forces in Russia which do support the terrorist separatist regions in Georgia which complicates the situation in the country.  I am confident that (Inaudible.) be solved (Inaudible.).


     Q:  (Inaudible.).


     Rumsfeld:  The most what kind of --


     Q:  Eloquent.


     Rumsfeld:  First of all, I'm not a politician.  I haven't run for public office since 1968.  That's a long time ago. 


     The United States for two years now has been looking at how our forces are arranged in the world.  The President's asked me to make some recommendations and we're at the stage now where we're beginning to talk to some of our friends and allies and partners around the world about concepts, but we're not at the stage of making specific recommendations.


     What we do know is that the challenges of the 21st Century are quite different from the 20th Century, and our goal is to be arranged in a way that we are more agile and more flexible and able to move and do things in short timeframes -- days or weeks -- rather than a static defense where you really can't move except in months or years.


     Q:  Mr. Secretary, (Inaudible.) a withdrawal (Inaudible.) the situation.  (Inaudible.)?


     Rumsfeld:  I guess I would respond this way.  The Istanbul Accords called for withdrawal of those forces and that was I think 11, 12 years ago.  That has been the interest and desire of the government of Georgia.  As I recall, Russia agreed to the Istanbul Accords which suggests to me that there was unanimity on the subject.  And that would suggest to me that it was probably a pretty good idea.


     Q:  (Inaudible.)


     Rumsfeld:  The Georgia Train and Equip program, as your question suggests, is scheduled to be completed in the period immediately ahead in its current form.  We do, however, have an arrangement with the Ministry of Defense whereby we would assist with some additional activities -- a mechanized element, for example -- in the period thereafter.  The U.S. Department of Defense and the Ministry of Defense and the government of Georgia have had discussions about military to military cooperation and various types of activities which we would anticipate would continue into the future.


     Burdzhanadze:  (Inaudible.).


     Rumsfeld:  Thank you very much.

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