Remarks at the U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership Omnibus Meeting
Secretary of State
We will have a full day of activities between our delegations today. But before that, we would – are honored to begin with some remarks by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And Madam Secretary, the floor is yours.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Secretary Gordon. And let me welcome warmly the prime minister and this very distinguished delegation here for the second annual omnibus meeting under the U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership.
One of my goals as Secretary of State was to deepen and broaden our relationship and to look for the opportunity that comes with a Strategic Partnership dialogue that gets beyond the heads of state and the heads of government and into the actual working parts of the government, because I know very well, as I look around the room at my colleagues from across our government, that the prime minister and I will make the speeches, but the hard work will be done by the people from both of our delegations.
I was very pleased to have a chance to meet the prime minister during my visit to Georgia in July. And I saw President Saakashvili in New York where we continued our excellent discussion. Those earlier talks and our meeting today have all affirmed the vital friendship between our countries.
The relationship between Georgia and the United States stands on a foundation of shared values and common interests. The Charter that our countries signed in January 2009 has given us a framework for further developing our cooperation. And today, I want to reiterate our commitment to working together to advance Georgia’s security and democracy.
The United States will not waver in its support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. That support is a core principle of our Charter on Strategic Partnership, and it is fundamental to our bilateral relationship.
The United States remains committed to Georgia’s aspirations for membership in NATO, as reflected in the Alliance’s decisions in Bucharest and Strasbourg-Kehl. We strongly support Georgia’s efforts related to its Annual National Program, which promotes defense reform and guides cooperation with NATO. And we continue to support Georgia’s efforts on defense reform and improving defense capabilities, including NATO interoperability and Georgia’s contributions to ISAF operations in Afghanistan.
We are extremely grateful for Georgia’s contributions to NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan. Seven hundred and fifty Georgian soldiers in ISAF are serving shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. Marines in Helmand Province, with another 200 serving with French troops. They are helping Afghans build a more secure, stable, and prosperous future, and working to safeguard our common security against the threat of terrorism. And we were deeply saddened by your loss last week of the four Georgian soldiers and by the casualties that you endured earlier. I want to express our condolences and solidarity with the Georgian people in the face of our shared sacrifice and loss.
We continue to call on Russia to end its occupation of Georgian territory, withdraw its forces, and abide by its other commitments under the 2008 ceasefire agreements. Georgia has taken a constructive approach in our common efforts to address this challenge through the talks in Geneva. We support the objectives of Georgia’s State Strategy on Occupied Territories, and we are prepared to undertake activities that reinforce these important objectives.
As part of our commitment to enhancing Georgia’s future as a prosperous and secure member of the Western family of nations, we will continue to work with you to strengthen Georgian democracy. Free elections, sound institutions, and a vibrant civil society are prerequisites for the long-term stability and legitimacy of any government. That’s true in the United States and it’s true in Georgia.
Now democracy in Georgia has made great strides over the last seven years. The conduct of the municipal elections this May represented real tangible progress. But there is still a lot of work ahead to address issues of political competition, fundraising, and accountability, including a thorough investigation of any alleged irregularities in May’s elections.
Georgia’s parliamentary elections in 2012 and the presidential elections in 2013 should showcase a Georgian democracy that not only meets, but exceeds international standards. It will be important for Georgia’s people and for the international community. The progress that Georgia has made against corruption is already serving as a role model for many other countries seeking to replicate the success that Georgia has had. We look forward to working with you toward these goals and encourage you to keep working with a cross section of Georgia’s civil society and opposition groups as you bolster Georgia’s democracy.
Constitutional reform is the most obvious and most important reform challenge facing Georgia today. It represents the opportunity for Georgians to build on everything you have accomplished since the Rose Revolution. And I hope the parliament will recognize that opportunity as it concludes its consideration of the constitutional reform package. The United States supports the recommendations that the Venice Commission has put forward for strengthening Georgia’s system of checks and balances. And we stand ready to assist in this process however we can.
So, let me again thank the prime minister for being here today. Let me reiterate, and end where I started, we are deeply committed to this partnership. We care about Georgia’s security and Georgia’s democracy. We support the Georgian people in your aspirations to build a better future. And we appreciate this opportunity to strengthen that close relationship at many levels in both of our governments to build relationships among people, not just between governments, and to support the kind of changes that are occurring in Georgia that we, in turn, can then trumpet to our own people here, including investors who we would urge to take a close look at Georgia and others in our country who are standing by and urging on and cheering for the changes that Georgia is making and the role model that you are becoming.
Thank you, Prime Minister.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. Prime Minister, thank you for being here. The floor is yours.
PRIME MINISTER GILAURI: First of all, thank you very much, Madam Secretary, for your kind words. It is an honor for me to be here and to co-chair this commission with Madam Secretary. First of all, I would like to thank you personally for supporting Georgia throughout these very difficult times, supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity everywhere in international arena.
Also, I would like to thank U.S. Government, you personally, for support – financial and economic support that U.S. has with Georgia. I have to say that the last two years were quite difficult for Georgian economy, but it proved to be very, very resilient. Recovery is there and when we analyze the recovery, the reasons of recovery, there are two main things behind it. One is international financial institutions and U.S. support, financial support, in – especially in infrastructure projects, which gives Georgia the additional impetus for becoming a logistical center in the region. And second is the reforms that actually were undertaken by Government of Georgia in the past four, five years.
I have to say that with those reforms, Georgia has become kind of a role model in the region, in the region which is – still thinks in post-Soviet manner, in the region where corruption is still part of everyday life. Georgia has become a role model of fighting corruption, of having a market economy, and being successful in doing so. And this model can be actually expanded and exported in the wider region of that part of the world.
However, in order to do that, we need some additional steps forward. We know what we are doing and we need – we will need your additional support, which we are actually seeing to be here – support in economic, education, and as well as in security aspects. First of all, in economic aspect, we are hoping for additional next year’s projects in infrastructure and in educational areas. We’re talking about possible U.S. university which can be established in Georgia, which will be actually educational and scientifical center of the region, not only for Georgia.
By the way, I have to tell you that we are – right now, for example, we are bringing up to a thousand English language teachers from U.S., from Canada, to come to Georgia, to be in the villages of Georgia for them to actually adopt to this thinking of – Western-type thinking, as well as, of course, learning the English language, which I think is very, very important. Infrastructure projects are quite important for us. Georgia has become energy hub of the region. There are many pipelines that cross Georgia from east to west, from north to south. We are main hub for gas exports from Caspian base to Turkey and so on to Europe. We are one of the main hub in terms of oil transit, and as well as we are net electricity exporters to Russia, to Azerbaijan, to Turkey, to all neighboring countries.
Additional infrastructure projects like that can be very profitable for private sector as well as can be very strategic for Europe, for the Western world – for example, oil refinery on the Black Sea area of Georgia or liquefied natural gas and compressed natural gas stations on the Black Sea shore of Georgia, which can be – actually provide – can provide additional energy security to Europe and for the rest of the world through Georgia. It can be a very interesting project for private sector as well as for state-to-state projects.
Another area that I have to mention is definitely security and defense, and Georgia and U.S. have been very good allies and – as – definitely Afghanistan is very good example of that. Unfortunately, we had the first losses a few days ago and thanks for your kind words for that. NATO is another issue and everybody knows about aspirations of Georgia towards NATO, and thank you very much for supporting our aspirations. Next summit will be taken in Lisbon and we are hoping for your extended support there as well.
Another important area is definitely action plan of Georgia’s strategy on occupied territories. This is something that have been developed by Government of Georgia, that have been introduced to everyone internationally, that has been supported from everyone internationally. We are going to pursue these steps. Georgia is committed to create a society – free society based on democratic values. We are doing most of the reforms that – towards that area. There is an excellent example of joint cooperation in the new criminal procedures court and the introduction of jury trial, by the way, which is done just now. Actually, just – we are talking – it’s introduced only in the autumn of this year, and which we think will have a very significant impetus in the future development of justice system in Georgia. It was actually done with the cooperation with – and – within this commission, which we’d like to thank you very much.
We have a quite ambitious agenda together and we think that this commission is a very good instrument for achieving new goals that we have together. I’m wishing that and I’m thinking that these teams that will be working afterwards will have a fruitful discussion and I’m hoping for another positive steps forward in relations between Georgia and U.S. Thank you very much one more time, Madam Secretary.