WASHINGTON (AFP) — Vice President Joe Biden affirmed “unwavering” US support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in a phone conversation Thursday with its president, the White House said.
The Georgian presidency, in a statement from Tbilisi, said Biden also expressed support for Mikheil Saakashvili’s “democratically elected government” but there was no mention of that in account of the conversation provided by Biden’s office.
It said only that the vice president welcomed the government’s “measured response to the ongoing opposition protests and its efforts to engage in a dialogue with the non-parliamentary opposition.”
“He encouraged the government to continue its outreach,” Biden’s office said.
Biden also “underscored the need for Georgia and Russia to exercise restraint and contribute to the stability of Georgia’s separatist regions,” it said.
Biden’s office said the vice president “emphasized the United States’ unwavering support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Georgia’s opposition has been protesting since April 9 to demand Saakashvili’s resignation. Talks on Monday failed to resolve differences.
Clashes between police and protesters, and a brief bloodless military mutiny last week, have raised fears of wider political unrest in Georgia, which is currently hosting NATO military exercises that have infuriated Russia.
About 20,000 opposition supporters rallied in central Tbilisi on Saturday in the largest demonstration since the campaign’s opening days.
Protesters have set up mock jail cells, blocked main streets in the capital for weeks and threatened to expand protest actions by blocking key highways. Several thousand protesters took part in a daily rally on Thursday.
Tensions have increased in recent days but officials have vowed there would be no repeat of events in November 2007 when riot police used water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse thousands of protesters.