- Risking Russia's ire, Georgia seeks closer ties with Europe
By Margarita Antidze and Timothy Heritage TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgia's new president said on Monday he would press ahead with efforts to deepen the former Soviet republic's ties with the West despite Russian concerns. European leaders and observers hailed Sunday's "clean" election won by Georgy Margvelashvili, an ally of billionaire Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, as a sign that democracy is maturing in the small South Caucasus state. ...
- Kerry visits Western-leaning Moldova to show support
By David Brunnstrom CHISINAU (Reuters) - John Kerry became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Moldova in more than two decades on Wednesday, part of a show of support for pro-Western moves by the former Soviet republic in the face of Russian pressure. Kerry opted to make his brief stop in Moldova after it and another former Soviet republic, Georgia, initialed agreements on closer ties with the European Union last week. In doing so, Kerry decided to skip a ministerial conference in Ukraine, which has rejected an accord with Brussels in favor of cultivating closer ties with Russia instead. A senior State Department official briefing reporters travelling with Kerry said the purpose of the four-hour stop in Chisinau - the first by a U.S. secretary of state since a visit by James Baker in 1992 - would be to offer support and encouragement in the face of Russian threats.
- NATO seeks Afghan accord as it looks for new role
NATO foreign ministers will press Afghanistan Tuesday to accept terms for a continued alliance role after withdrawal next year as they chart its future following its biggest military operation yet. Officials said the focus of a two-day meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels is to build on its active military role since the early 1990s, from the Balkans to Afghanistan and Libya, safeguarding gains in inter-operability and capability at a time when defence budgets are under strain. The aim is to ensure NATO remains relevant and effective in a changing world where the challenges are as much military as political and economic, threatening to boil over into conflict and social upheaval. Relations with Ukraine and Georgia provide another difficult issue for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart Secretary of State John Kerry as NATO seeks to maintain and boost ties with former Soviet states.
- EU hits out at Russia in East-West tussle for Ukraine
European Union leaders hit out at Russia at a summit Friday after Ukraine refused to sign a landmark accord, dealing a blow to EU plans to draw ex-Soviet states into the Western fold. The snub by jewel-in-the-crown Ukraine highlighted a worsening EU-Russia tug-of-war over former Soviet satellites in eastern Europe. "The times of limited sovereignty are over in Europe," Barroso said after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych turned a deaf ear to pleas from the bloc's 28 leaders to strike the far-reaching trade and political deal, claiming economic pressure from Moscow. The two-day summit held in the Lithuanian capital on the EU's eastern flank was to have celebrated a five-year drive to cement ties between the bloc and Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
- EU blames Russia for failure of deal with Ukraine
VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — The European Union missed out on a major opportunity to spread its influence deep into eastern Europe on Friday and openly accused Russia of using unacceptable pressure to keep Ukraine from signing a landmark deal on closer association.
- EU fails in bid to bring Ukraine closer to West
A European Union bid to draw mighty ex-Soviet state Ukraine into the Western fold headed for failure at a summit ending Friday held amid a worsening EU-Russia tug-of-war. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told AFP that leaders of the 28-nation-bloc had failed to convince Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to sign up to a landmark political and trade deal that had upset former master Moscow. The two-day summit held in the Lithuanian capital on the EU's eastern flank was to have celebrated a five-year drive to cement ties between the 28-nation bloc and six former Soviet states in eastern Europe and the Caucasus -- Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
- Five years after war, Georgia defies Russia over Europe
By Margarita Antidze TBILISI (Reuters) - Five years after it fought a war with Russia, Georgia is preparing to defy its former Soviet masters again by initialing an accord on strengthening ties with Europe. New Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili is toughing it out just a week after another former Soviet republic, Ukraine, bowed to pressure from Moscow and suspended plans to strike a similar deal with the European Union. The South Caucasus country's economy is much smaller than Ukraine's but it is important to the EU because it hosts pipelines that carry Caspian gas and oil to Europe. "Ukraine's decision is very unfortunate, but Ukraine and Georgia are different stories as we are much less dependent on Russia than Ukraine is," Garibashvili told Reuters in an interview in the Georgian capital Tbilisi.
- Irakli Garibashvili, 31, confirmed as Georgian PM
Kutaisi (Georgia) (AFP) - Georgia's parliament on Wednesday confirmed Irakli Garibashvili as the ex-Soviet state's new prime minister, replacing his close ally billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili as premier. "The parliament has approved the new government by 93 votes to 19," parliament speaker David Usupashvili said. The vote will make 31-year-old Garibashvili—- who served as interior minister during Ivanishvili's year in charge -- the youngest serving head of government in Europe. Garibashvili called the vote "emotional" and thanked his mentor Ivanishvili for choosing him as his handpicked successor.
- Georgia's new premier says will seek thaw with Russia
By Margarita Antidze TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgia's new premier said on Wednesday his government would stick to the ex-Soviet republic's pro-Western course but also try to mend relations with Russia, Tbilisi's old Soviet master and adversary in a five-day war in 2008. Parliament confirmed Irakly Garibashvili and his cabinet by a vote of 93-19, completing a political transition that has ended almost a decade of dominance by former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who avidly sought integration with the West. A more distant goal is membership in the NATO defense alliance, a prospect Russia strongly opposes. "The government will also try to overcome a crisis in relations with Russia." Garibashvili takes over from Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire who became prime minister after leading an opposition coalition to victory over Saakashvili's party in an October 2012 parliamentary election.
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