Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze yesterday completed a five-day official visit to the U.S., during which he conferred with President Bill Clinton, senior State and Defense Department officials, Congressional leaders, and the managements of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Shevardnadze also spoke at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. A White House communique, noting Georgia’s advances toward democratization and economic reforms under Shevardnadze’s leadership, spoke of an "expanded U.S.-Georgian partnership in the spheres of foreign policy, security, and economics." Clinton pledged continuing assistance to Georgia’s economic reforms; decided to boost aid to Georgia in fiscal year 1998; endorsed the Caucasus transit corridor (Central Asia to Europe) project, whose linchpin is Georgia; and praised Tbilisi’s efforts toward regional cooperation in the Caucasus. Clinton also reportedly came out in favor of the Baku-Ceyhan export oil pipeline via Georgia and Turkey for the "main" Azerbaijani oil (due after 2000), with the proviso that a portion of that oil would be ferried from Georgia via the Black Sea to Ukraine.
Reemphasizing its support for Georgia’s territorial integrity, the U.S. side supported Georgia’s proposals for a UN-sponsored international conference to settle the Abkhazia conflict, with the participation of the OSCE, Russia, and the "Friends of Georgia" group of countries, led by the U.S. and Germany.
An international conference based on this format is scheduled to be held in Geneva in the next few days. Shevardnadze stated repeatedly during his U.S. visit that Russia has "exhausted its potential" as political mediator and military peacekeeper in the Caucasus, including in the Abkhazia conflict. He held out a continuing role for Moscow in both of those areas, but only within an international framework that would preclude any one country’s "monopoly" in managing regional conflicts.
Washington will reportedly turn over to Georgia two coast guard cutters and other, unspecified military and technical equipment for Georgia’s border troops. The Northrop Grumman company will deliver to Georgia a $16 million airspace control system on a credit from the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The sides also agreed on enlarging Georgia’s participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. (International agencies, July 18-21)
Yeghorian Founds Independent Political Force.