Tbilisi responds to Moscow: "It’s our right to choose military partners"

The military equipment used in the Noble Partner exercise includes iconic M1A2 Abrams tanks from US Army's armoured units. Photo from the Ministry of Defence of Georgia/Facebook.
Agenda.ge, 07 May 2016 - 16:06, Tbilisi,Georgia

"Georgia is an independent and sovereign state, which has the right to hold any kind of training on its territory,” Georgia’s Foreign Ministry says.

The agency issued a statement in response to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s claims that the joint Georgia-United States (US) military exercises aimed at "escalating the military and political situation in the South Caucasus.”

The Russian side criticised the Noble Partner drills, which will launch on May 11 and continue for just over two weeks in Georgia. The exercises will feature about 500 Georgian, 150 United Kingdom and 650 US service members.

Russia assessed the US-Georgia joint activities as "provocative”.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry emphasised it was Georgia’s "sovereign right” to choose its military partners and forms of cooperation with them.

"These activities are not directed against any other parties,” official Tbilisi said, adding that similar exercises took place in Georgia last year too.

"With such exercises Georgia deepens cooperation in military and educational spheres with its partners, which is important for intensifying the country’s defence ability,” official Tbilisi said.

The statement stressed it was in Georgia’s interest to keep stability in the Caucasus.