(Tbilisi, February 21, Civil Georgia) – Richard Boucher, Spokesman of US Department of State commented on situation in Pankisi gorge, Georgia on February 20.
“This [situation in Pankisi] has been an area of concern for a long time, as you know. If you look back at our Patterns of Global Terrorism for the year 2000, which was released about a year ago, we talk in there about international Mujahedin that were seeking to use Georgia as a conduit to Chechnya. Georgian officials have also confirmed that there are foreign fighters that have been present within Georgia.
So this is something we have worked with Georgian officials on. The Secretary [of Defense Donald Ramsfeld] and President Shevardnadze met, and this was one of the major topics of their discussion I think last October, early October, when they met. And it’s something we work on with Georgian officials on the best way to deal with the problem.
We have in the past worked a lot with Georgians on border security issues and tried to give them assistance in beefing up their ability to control the borders in this area. We have supported them with anti-terrorism training and cooperation, and we will continue to do that and we will continue to support the Georgian Government’s efforts to take appropriate action.
Our goal in all this and what we have discussed with the Georgians and frankly what we have always told the Russians is that we felt that this situation was best dealt with through cooperation, through cooperation with the United States and Georgia, so that Georgia would have better control over the area, better control over the borders. And that’s been our approach that continues to be our approach,” Richard Boucher stated.