By Rebecca Shabad - 03/03/14 01:26 PM EST
Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday pledged additional United States aid to Moldova to develop closer ties with Europe, even as Russia puts pressure on its new government.
“We are pleased today to announce that we’re going to add additional funding to their efforts to develop competitiveness, which is key to their businesses and to their economic prospects, and will add another $2.8 million to an already $4.7 million for a total of $7.5 million or so to help in this particular transition,” Kerry said from the State Department with Moldova’s prime minister, lurie Leanca.
The U.S. has already contributed nearly $1.5 billion to Moldova's transition, Kerry said.
Moldova and Georgia, both former Soviet republics, have been negotiating trade agreements with the European Union, but Russia has been interfering, Kerry said.
“There are challenges. I regret to say that Russia, in some of the challenges that we’re seeing now in Ukraine, has put pressure on Moldova. There are challenges with respect to their energy sources, and also their ability to trade. But we are committed firmly to the direction that Moldova has chosen for themselves.”
Moldova and Georgia signed a free trade pact and political association treaty with the EU in November as they worked toward becoming member states. Ukraine decided not to sign the deal, which sparked the massive protests that eventually led to the recent overthrow of its government.
Kerry said he looked forward on Monday to having a “constructive” and “timely” conversation with Leanca about the situation in Ukraine. Kerry will leave for Ukraine Monday evening for meetings with officials there on Tuesday.