The NATO secretary-general on Tuesday called on Russia to withdraw its forces from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

“We call on Russia to end its recognition of the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and to withdraw its forces,” said Jens Stoltenberg at a news conference with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia.

“NATO supports Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders,” he added.

Stoltenberg said they have discussed “close cooperation between Georgia and NATO on the Black Sea security.”

“Earlier this year, allies agreed to strengthen our partnership, even further. This includes sharing more air traffic radar data, working jointly to address hybrid threats, as well as doing joint exercises in the Black Sea region,” he added.

Stoltenberg also welcomed Georgia’s reforms in modernizing its army and strengthening democracy.

“I encourage you to continue making full use of all the opportunities for coming closer to NATO, and to prepare for membership.”

Georgia fought a five-day war with Russia in 2008 over breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Tbilisi ultimately lost control of both areas, and Russia later recognized them as independent states.

Both regions remain internationally recognized Georgian territories.

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