Joint Statement of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission Working Group on People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges
On December 18, 2014, in Washington, D.C., the United States Department of State hosted the annual meeting of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission’s Working Group on People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges to advance cooperation in the areas of public outreach, education, cultural exchanges, and health. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mark Toner, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Jonathan Katz, Georgian First Deputy Foreign Minister David Dondua, and Georgian First Deputy State Minister of Georgia for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Ketevan Tsikhelashvili co-chaired the Working Group.
The United States reiterated its strong support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and reaffirmed that it will not recognize the legitimacy of any so-called “treaty” between Georgia’s Abkhazia region and the Russian Federation. Furthermore, the United States expressed concern about the ongoing “borderization” activities along the Administrative Boundary Lines of Georgia’s occupied territories, which are inconsistent with Russia’s international commitments. In this context, the Working Group renewed its full support for the Geneva International Discussions as a key tool to achieve concrete progress on security and humanitarian issues in the occupied territories. The Working Group emphasized the importance of engagement with the inhabitants of the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia through civil integration and other reconciliation initiatives, and encouraged the continuation of such efforts. The Working Group also discussed the importance of promoting tolerance and inclusiveness for religious and ethnic minorities, and the United States expressed support for ongoing and future programs advancing these important goals. The Government of Georgia welcomed U.S. efforts to further bolster people-to-people engagement on the ground.
The Working Group highlighted the continued support of the Millennium Challenge Corporation and USAID to improve the quality of education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields in Georgia. The United States announced it would increase the annual number of Georgian students in the Future Leader Exchange Program (FLEX) by 33 percent and that the U.S. Peace Corps is expanding the number of volunteers serving in Georgia by 23 percent, including in regions where volunteers have not served since 2008. The United States also announced a new sports exchange program set to take place in 2015, and commended Georgia’s new public-private partnership in support of the expanded Fulbright graduate student program.
The Working Group also discussed the effective cooperation between the United States and Georgia to strengthen public health. The United States praised ongoing work with Georgia to develop its Wounded Warrior program, and the resulting expansion of amputee care services for injured soldiers and civilians alike. The Working Group underscored the importance of the Lugar Center for Public Health Research, joint efforts advancing the Global Health Security Agenda, and measures to ensure the sustainability of tuberculosis treatment programs. The Working Group also reviewed the exciting new bilateral partnership to eliminate Hepatitis C in Georgia, saluting the ongoing close cooperation between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Georgia's Ministry of Labor, Health, and Social Affairs.
The Strategic Partnership Commission is the primary mechanism for organizing and prioritizing the broad and deepening cooperation between the United States and Georgia. The Commission includes four bilateral working groups on priority areas identified in the Charter on Strategic Partnership: democracy; defense and security; economic, trade, and energy; and people-to-people and cultural exchanges.
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