Feb. 25 - Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili tells Reuters, ''We are extremely concerned,'' about Ukraine, saying Georgia signed an agreement with the EU while pursuing better ties with Russia. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili pays his repsects at the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington, Virginia. The service is part of a trip to Washington, a visit that appears to be aimed at sending a message to Moscow that U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is standing by Georgia during the Ukraine crisis. He tells Reuters he is watching developments in Ukraine closely. (SOUNDBITE) GEORGIAN PRIME MINISTER IRAKLI GARIBASHVILI (English) SAYING: "Of course the recent developments may have implications on the wider region, and that's why we are concerned. First of all, Ukraine is a very close country to Georgia. Ukraine is a partner country, and we have a long history. Therefore, we are extremely concerned about the recent developments. We have seen some concerning signs in Crimea and some statements, therefore we are watching closely." He met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House. The unrest in Ukraine erupted last fall when former President Viktor Yanukovich spurned a trade agreement with the EU in favor of Russia. Georgia took a different path, signing up with EU. (SOUNDBITE) GEORGIAN PRIME MINISTER IRAKLI GARIBASHVILI (English) SAYING: "I think the Georgian way is something that they should look and should consider. It means that we made a firm decision to sign the association agreement with the European Union. At the same time, we are trying to normalize relations with Russia and having this constructive policy with them. Therefore, we need to find a balance, how to balance this. And we have to persuade the Russian authorities that Georgia's European integration does not conflict with the Russian interest. That's our mission." The 31-year old says he does not want to look back (SOUNDBITE) GEORGIAN PRIME MINISTER IRAKLI GARIBASHVILI (English) SAYING: "I grew up during the Soviet period. And I was a little kid when the Soviet Union broke up. I remember a difficult period. We did not have electricity. We didn't have gas, and I was studying my lessons on candlelight, and therefore I perfectly remember those difficult moments, and I don't want to go back to the past." Georgia fought a brief border war with Russia in 2008.