Meeting With Staff of Embassy Tbilisi and Their Families

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Tbilisi Marriott
Tbilisi, Georgia
July 5, 2010

AMBASSADOR BASS: Well, you all know that I believe very firmly in speaking for a short amount of time, and I am going to keep to that today. But before I introduce the Secretary I would like to thank all of you for all the hard work today, preceding weeks, but more importantly, every day, day in and day out, that you do to keep this relationship in such a great place, and to advance our interests here in Georgia.

And, with that, I would like to introduce the Secretary of State and the former Senator from the great State of New York --


SECRETARY CLINTON: Sounds like there are a few New Yorkers in the crowd here. I appreciate that.

Well, thank you so much, John. I want to commend you for your leadership and your service, and all of you, a great appreciation for what you are doing here, day in and day out on behalf of the important relationship between Georgia and the United States. I think that this is one of the truly significant posts, when it comes to the future of democracy, because the jury is out. We have made progress, but we have a long way to go. And every day, each and every one of you, in your own way, serves to further a better future for the people in Georgia.

I would like to thank Kent Logsdon for his service as chargé. And, Kent, thank you very much. Where is Kent? He's in with the -- oh, he's in the back? Well, thank you very much, Kent. We appreciate all that you did to strengthen this relationship.

You know, this embassy, I know, is a real team effort. And you've seen it all, those of you who have been here for a while. We know that the country has faced some very difficult challenges. And the United States has been a friend and a partner to Georgia for its entire independence. But it is especially significant that when the challenges arising from the invasion and occupation occurred, the embassy here was extraordinary stalwart. I know some of you stayed and worked and really made major contributions to getting a cease fire, and trying to stabilize a very difficult and dangerous situation.

The United States believes in a very strong partnership, not only with the Georgian Government, but with civil society and with the Georgian people. And your work is absolutely essential to that. I mean, we can talk about how much we care about what you do sitting in Washington, but you do it every single day. And even during the days of the conflict, you were working. And it was just amazing, the stories of people refusing to give up, and who kept going under extraordinarily challenging circumstances.

I especially want to thank Marika Kharabadze in the consular's section. Is Marika here? Marika was recognized as the European Bureau's Foreign Service National of the Year last year. Marika and all of the locally-engaged staff, you are the backbone of this embassy community. And you provide the continuity, the expertise, and the insights that our mission needs to be successful.

And I want to thank not only foreign service and civil service and representatives of other American Government agencies, but also spouses and children, because you too are serving and you too are sacrificing. There is one family in particular I want to thank. Jamie Palagi, who was just reactivated for service in Afghanistan, and he will be leaving next week. And I just met Jamie and his wife and their three-month-old daughter, Julia. And, on behalf of everyone in the State Department and the Obama Administration, I want to thank him for his service. We will be praying for his safety, and we are very grateful that he has served here and has served in so many ways on behalf of our country.

Now, ever since the war in August 2008 and the onset of the global financial crisis, your work has been essential to Georgia's recovery, including in the administering of $1 billion in reconstruction and stabilization funding. That assistance has improved so many people's lives by providing humanitarian relief and shelter to IDPs, rebuilding infrastructure, attracting investment, and revitalizing the Georgian economy. The work sent an important message of support and solidarity with the Georgian people, right in the moment when they needed it the most.

So, I am very proud. I am proud of you, I am proud of what you and our Georgian counterparts have accomplished together. We have to build on that relationship and continue working on the broad, bilateral package of important priorities, including implementation of the U.S.-Georgia charter on strategic partnership, whose four working groups met here between October of 2009 and February of 2010. We need your help to continue promoting reforms in the political, economic, democratic, and agricultural sectors, just to name a few.

Now, I know that you work hard every day, and then somebody like me comes along and you wonder, "Oh, my gosh, I have to do that plus everything else?" Well, yes, unfortunately, you did. But it really paid off. This was an important visit. The timing of it was critical. And I appreciate all that every one of you contributed to the success of my visit. We very much appreciate your long hours and your commitment to serving our nation and strengthening the important partnership between Georgia and the United States.

Now, there is a well-known tradition in the State Department that when my airplane finally lifts up, and I am no longer your responsibility -- which I know will make more than a few of you very happy -- there is an occasion for a wheels up party. And so I just had the chance to taste some really good Georgian white wine. So I think, Ambassador -- I don't know what time it is; I lose track of time when I travel -- but when I am finally out of your airspace, don't' you think these folks deserve a little time --


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.


PRN: 2010/T31-24