U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is warning Russia against distracting European leaders with new talks when it has yet to make good on previous commitments.
“Russia, which currently occupies 20% of Georgia’s territory, should focus on honoring its 2008 cease-fire commitments before promoting any new discussion platforms,” Austin said Monday during a visit to Tbilisi, Georgia, to meet with the country’s prime minister and defense minister.
“I’m here to reassure Georgia,” Austin added. “We have many shared interests, and of course, shared values, and we see a number of opportunities for security cooperation.”
The visit to Georgia is the first stop of a European swing that will also take the U.S. defense secretary to Ukraine and Romania.
Austin will also travel to Belgium to participate in a NATO defense ministers meeting.
Russia recently floated the idea of a so-called 3+3 format for talks to resolve lingering issues with Georgia. The format would include Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as Iran and Turkey.
According to Russia’s Foreign Ministry, the idea already has the support of Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Georgia has been steadily expanding ties with the U.S. and other Western countries, and like Ukraine, it has been seeking to join NATO.
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