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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
In the last decade, the Republic of Georgia has worked hard to implement a series of political, economic, and social reform aimed at establishing a democratic and prosperous society. These changes have often been difficult and even controversial, but the Georgian Government and its people must be commended for continuing to move forward. However, there is still much to be done.
Soon, in the next few months, there will be parliamentary and presidential elections. Much is riding on these elections being perceived to be free and fair and conducted in full compliance with international democratic standards. The U.S. strongly supports Georgia's membership in NATO, and the alliance has repeatedly stated that the Republic of Georgia will one day be welcomed as a full member.
Free and fair elections, Mr. Speaker, are fundamental to further progress toward Georgia's joining NATO. Nevertheless, Georgia is already contributing greatly to the alliance, particularly to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, where it is the second largest non-NATO contributor.
Georgia's deployed forces in Afghanistan number over 800 troops, and these do not have restrictions on their engagement in combat, which is not the case with so many other allies. Georgia has done this even as its own security situation remains precarious, given the ongoing presence by Russian troops in several regions in Georgia.
Until Russia fulfills the conditions in its 2008 cease-fire agreement, the instability and conflict it has deliberately created will, unfortunately, continue. Russia's aggression against Georgia poses a threat to the security of the entire region. This resolution, therefore, sends a strong message that Russian actions and continued military presence in these areas are unacceptable and must end immediately.
I therefore urge my colleagues to join me in support of this important resolution.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
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