U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney says the United States has a deep and abiding interest in the security of the Caucasus region.

Speaking after talks in Baku with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, Cheney stressed the importance of recognition for the principle of territorial integrity he said is endangered by Russia's recent invasion of Georgia. Mr. Aliyev echoed the vice-president's views.

Cheney was in Azerbaijan at the start of regional tour to show support for former Soviet republics in the aftermath of the fighting. The U.S. vice president later travels to Georgia and Ukraine.

The comments came as the United States prepares to announce a $1 billion economic aid package to help Georgia rebuild after Russia's military action

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nestorenko criticized U.S. calls for rebuilding Georgia's military as unhelpful.

Earlier, the European Parliament appealed to Russia to honor all its commitments for a complete and immediate withdrawal of its forces from Georgia.

Meanwhile, Georgian lawmakers voted to lift martial law imposed after the outbreak of fighting in Georgia.

Separately, Russia shut down its embassy and consulate in Tbilisi Wednesday, and says it will stop issuing visas to Georgians next week. Georgia severed diplomatic ties with Moscow Tuesday.

In another development, the flagship of the U.S. Mediterranean Fleet, the USS Mount Whitney, is on its way to Georgia to deliver humanitarian supplies to that country.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.