|Senator Kerry speaking at a news conference in the Tbilisi airport on December 13. Photo: InterPressNews|
Democratic Senator, John Kerry, an incoming chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, said dialogue with Russia was important for Washington, but this dialogue “will not come at the expense” of Georgia’s security and sovereignty.
“The President-elect [Barack Obama] made it clear that it will be important for the United States to engage with the ongoing dialogue with Russia, because we all have mutual interests,” Senator Kerry said while visiting Tbilisi on December 13.
“But we also make that crystal clear that that dialogue does not come at the expense of the security of Georgia, the sovereignty of Georgia, the independence of Georgia; the rights of its people or our interests here that are expressed in unison with the European community,” he said.
The U.S. Senator also stressed that the dialogue with Russia “can't come at the expense of the security arrangements with respect of NATO.”
“I believe we can have a good relationship with Russia and restore a balance with respect to the interests of this region so that the sovereignty of Georgia is properly respected and so we all go forward respecting the appropriate rights of each state,” Kerry said. “So there are a clear set of principles on which we begin that kind of discussion and Russia understands that.”
He also said that “Russians should live up” with their commitments under the ceasefire plan.
“My judgment is that Georgia as a sovereign country needs to be upheld and respected. And the agreement that the Russians have signed up to needs to be upheld,” the U.S. Senator said.
“I think we need to get the focus back from discussions of the August events and how they may unfolded to the realities of what is happening on the ground today and what we need to do to go forward in the interests of protecting the [human] rights and finding an appropriate accommodation that respects the law and the sovereignty,” Kerry said.
He said that through the Congress he would " put more focus” on the issue of human rights in the war-affected regions. He also said that the international community should pay more attention on these matters.
“The Congress of the United States and certainly the United States' Senate will be deeply committed to continuing our assistance to Georgia, particularly in this time, when the economy is stressed and we recognize the very real importance of Georgia and of its ability to be able to sustain itself during this troubled economic times,” he said.
Kerry added that this assistance was “more than just about economy.”
“This is about Georgia's efforts to protect its sovereignty; to protect its people and to stand as an example of what freedom and democracy can provide,” he said.
He also said that he would discuss back in Washington, including with President-elect Obama, the issue of free trade agreement with Georgia, “which I think makes a lot of sense.”