Source AP ©

Georgian PM visits Turkey

Georgian premier Zurab Nogaideli arrived in Turkey Wednesday to discuss growing economic ties between the two neighboring nations.

Talks were also expected to center on the political situation in Georgia, where President Mikhail Saakashvili imposed a state of emergency on Nov. 7 after squads of riot police violently dispersed a weeklong protest gathering.

Georgia's parliament speaker said Wednesday the national state of emergency would be lifted Friday. The United States and other Western nations have strongly urged Saakashvili to quickly remove the measure, which banned independent newscasts.

Saakashvili has previously accused Moscow of attempting to overthrow his government by staging the recent opposition protests, and said the crackdown was necessary to prevent the country from sliding into chaos.

Stability in Georgia is of great strategic interest to the United States and Western Europe, both because a major oil pipeline supplying the West crosses the country and because it is a pocket of pro-Western sentiment adjacent to increasingly confrontational Russia.

Turkey has close ties with the former Soviet republic and trade between the two countries has grown by 40 percent over the past year. Both are transit countries for oil and gas from the Caspian sea region.

Earlier this year, Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan agreed to build a railway line linking the three to strengthen cooperation in the region.