Georgia

United States leads surge of donors rebuilding Georgia

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Brussels, Belgium, conference raises $4.55 billion

By David McKeeby
Staff Writer

Washington - The United States joined 67 nations, international financial institutions and private-sector donors to deliver $4.55 billion for Georgia following Russia's August 2008 invasion.

"We share a commitment to Georgia's territorial integrity," Henrietta Fore, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, told delegates at a European Union-sponsored donors' conference in Brussels, Belgium, October 22. "That so many diverse countries and organizations chose to attend today shows that Georgia has many friends who want it to succeed."

Representatives from 67 countries, the International Monetary Fund, the European Investment Bank and the World Bank attended the conference, which brought in more than $1 billion more than a joint World Bank-United Nations estimate of $3.25 billion.

The money is needed by the South Caucasus democracy to rebuild following the conflict over its separatist regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"It is much more than we have sought and therefore I think it is a day of joy," said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Fore presented America's $1 billion recovery package for Georgia, announced by President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice September 3, which is aimed at helping Georgia meet immediate humanitarian needs and enhance economic stability. This nonmilitary aid package is in addition to nearly $40 million in emergency humanitarian assistance delivered to Georgia by USAID and the U.S. Defense Department during the crisis. (See "United States Pledges $1 Billion to Rebuild Georgia.")

The U.S. State Department said in an announcement, "Over the next two years, the United States' $1 billion dollar economic support package will provide for efforts to assist internally displaced people, rebuild infrastructure, restore economic growth and sustain investor confidence in the Georgian economy as well as foster continued democratic reform and energy security."

An EU civilian ceasefire monitor talks with a returning Georgian refugee in Duisi, Georgia.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso pledged 500 million euros ($643 million), declaring that as an aspiring EU candidate, Georgia's fate is inextricably linked to Europe, and that the global community has a "moral imperative" to help. Barroso also urged the EU's executive branch and 27 member states to match his pledge. "We must respond to this need and help Georgia to get back on track," Barroso said.

Among EU members, Germany offered a 69.7 million euro ($90.97 million) pledge, while France - current holder of the rotating EU presidency and a leader in diplomacy in ongoing Georgian-Russian peacemaking efforts - offered 7 million euros ($8.9 million).

If recovery aid is to be effective, said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, it must be available to all, including the separatist regions. He called on Russia to reverse its refusal to allow EU civilian cease-fire observers into the disputed regions and commit to a negotiated political solution to the conflict.

Japan pledged $200 million in recovery aid over three years, aimed primarily at rebuilding roads and rail systems destroyed in the Russian offensive, but joined delegates to urge Georgia to continue progress on democratic and economic reforms. The IMF has offered a $750 million loan package to Georgia, while the EU's European Investment Bank has offered 200 million euros ($264 million) in loans to help Georgia rebuild infrastructure damaged or destroyed in the three-week war.

The Georgian delegation was led by Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze. Russia was not invited to attend.

U.S.-RUSSIAN MILITARY LEADERS MEET

America's top-ranking military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, met with his Russian counterpart, General Nikolai Makarov, in Helsinki, Finland, October 21 to start restoring security ties that were strained by the Georgia crisis.

The talks, requested by Russian officials according to news reports, marked the first meeting between Mullen and the recently appointed Makarov.

Mullen said talks covered Washington's continued concerns about Moscow's first post-Soviet military offensive outside its territory and Moscow's concerns about U.S. naval vessels delivering humanitarian aid, as well as NATO-Russia relations and efforts to improve long-standing cooperation against terrorism, nuclear proliferation and narcotics trafficking.

"Clearly the relationship has changed because of what happened in Georgia," Mullen said. "But by no means should it end. ... Even in our darkest days of the Cold War we were talking to each other - and I think we need to continue."