The US and Georgia signed a memorandum of understanding on enhancing Georgia’s defence and containment capabilities during US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin’s visit here on Monday.

“The US values Georgia as a strategic partner, and our support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering,” said Austin at a joint press conference with Georgian Defence Minister Juansher Burchuladze after their meeting in Tbilisi.

Austin highlighted the significance of the memorandum of understanding on the Georgia Defence and Deterrence Enhancement (GDDE) Initiative, which was signed by the two ministers after the meeting, saying it underscored US enduring policy of helping Georgia to defend itself, to deter aggression and further its Euro-Atlantic integration, Xinhua news agency reported.

“This marks a new phase of our bilateral security cooperation, and it demonstrates the U.S. commitment to supporting Georgia,” said the US defence secretary.

For his part, Burchuladze said that Austin’s first official visit to Georgia reaffirms a strong strategic partnership between the US and Georgia, and serves the goal of further strengthening bilateral cooperation.

“The GDDE is a critically important agreement, further upgrading the US-Georgia defence cooperation,” Burchuladze said.

During his visit, Austin will also meet with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and attend U.S.-Georgia joint military exercises.

After his Georgia trip, Austin is set to visit Romania and Ukraine before taking part in the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in Brussels.

–IANS

int/shs

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