The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 19, 2008

President Bush Meets with President Saakashvili of Georgia
Oval Office

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11:58 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President, welcome back to Washington. I was just reminiscing with the President about my trip to Georgia, about the unbelievably good food, and about the dancing. He was wondering whether I'd come back and start my dancing career there. And I told him I probably better quit while I'm ahead.

We had a good discussion. I admire the President. I admire what Georgia has gone through and what Georgia is doing. We had an interesting talk about a couple of subjects, one of which is the economic opportunities in Georgia. This is a country which has adopted a very simplified tax code; it's easy for people to understand. I told the American people I tried to simplify our tax code. It's difficult to do. I congratulate you on simplifying yours and I congratulate you about your rates of growth.

President George W. Bush listens as Mikhail Saakashvili offers remarks as they meet Wednesday, March 19, 2008, in the Oval Office of the White House. President Saakashvili expressed his gratitude for America's support, saying, "I have to thank you, Mr. President, for your unwavering support for our freedom, for our democracy, for our territorial sovereignty, and for protecting Georgia's borders, and for Georgia's NATO aspiration."  White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian We talked about Georgia's contribution to democracy movements -- not only her own, but to democracy and freedom movements in places like Iraq. The citizens of Georgia must know that the troops that have been provided there are brave, courageous professionals, and have made a significant difference. And we want to thank you for that, Mr. President.

We talked about the need for there to be peaceful resolutions of conflicts, while recognizing the territorial integrity and sovereign borders of Georgia.

And finally, we, of course, talked about NATO. The Bucharest summit is coming up. Georgia's aspirations will be decided at the Bucharest summit. MAP application, of course, as the President full well knows, is not membership. MAP is a process that will enable NATO members to be comfortable with their country eventually joining. I believe that NATO benefits with a Georgian membership. I believe Georgia benefits from being a part of NATO. And I told the President it's a message I'll be taking to Bucharest soon.

And so, Mr. President, thanks for coming. I'm pleased you're here. I'm glad you brought your wife. Turns out our wives are out having lunch together on the town -- having lunch together on the town here in D.C. And just told Laura to keep the tab down. (Laughter.) I'm working on government pay these days. But thank you for coming.

PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. I'm incredibly thrilled to be back in the Oval Office. And, you know, we've been essential part of your freedom agenda. I was not President when I heard your speech in Warsaw, when you spoke about freedom between Baltics and the Black Sea. And that was an extremely visionary speech, because you spoke about the Black Sea at the moment when nobody wanted to look in our direction. And I think we are -- what we are up to now is to implement this freedom agenda -- for the sake of our people, for the sake of our values, for the sake of what the United States means for all of us, because the U.S. is exporting idealism to the rest of the world.

And we believe that, you know, we have very, very strong partnerships. We have a very, very strong partnership in democracy building. We have a very strong partnership in our military cooperation, because I'm very proud the Georgian troops in Iraq are not just controlling and are present there, protecting people, but are having success in doing so. And certainly this is something that we will state over generations.

I have to thank you, Mr. President, for your unwavering support for our freedom, for our democracy, for our territorial sovereignty, and for protecting Georgia's borders, and for Georgia's NATO aspirations. I think this is a very unequivocal support we're getting from you.

And, you know, this is the last year of your administration, but I can tell you, what you've done for -- not only for my country, but what you've done for all over the region, will be remembered greatly, and will be remembered as absolutely revolutionary change of way of thinking, of environment, of giving chances to a people who never thought about having those opportunities and chances before. That's what America is all about. That's what Bush freedom agenda is all about. And we are very proud to be part of that agenda, Mr. President.

You should know that this will stay as a photographic memory in our people's minds, and we will always remember it. We'll -- and we are very grateful, of course -- you will dance Georgia dance much better than I do -- (laughter) -- you are invited back, to come. You've shown considerable talent. (Laughter.) I know you're not Georgian, you're a Texan, but we are pretty close. (Laughter.) But deep in your mind you should have something Georgian. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's right. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: That's for sure. And, I mean, we certainly -- and if you don't want to dance with us, then you can come and bike with us, or do anything. But you're always welcome back as somebody who really put Georgia firmly on the world's freedom map, and not only Georgia, but many of the countries in the region, and gave us a chance. I think we will continue this cooperation.

I thank you for your support today. We've heard today everything we wanted to hear from the leader of the free world, and I think that's going to give new opportunities opening to my people. I'm bringing back hope and inspiration.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you.

Thank you all.

END 12:03 P.M. EST


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