U.S. Vice President, Joe Biden, said in Tbilisi that his visit aimed at sending “unequivocal, clear, simple message to all who will listen and some who don't want to listen, that America stands with you and will continue to stand” with Georgia.
Biden was speaking at a banquet held in his honor and hosted by President Saakashvili shortly after his arrival in Tbilisi on Wednesday evening.
Vice President Biden said the United States supported Georgia because “we first and foremost were inspired by you quest for independence.”
He said that the Rose Revolution was voice of “freedom loving people”. “What you did extended well beyond borders of Georgia,” he added.
Biden said the United States’ partnership with Georgia involved meeting security challenges, energy security and shared values of democracy.
“You are in the process of building those institutional attributes that the country needs to maintain democracy,” Biden said.
"Many other people in the world are looking to you to see whether or not you can bring the [rose] revolution to full fruition and plant those roots of democracy very deep," he said. "In a sense, some of the real hard part is now left."
President Saakashvili, who awarded Biden with one of Georgia’s highest medals - St. Georgia’s Victory Order, told the Vice President that he was Georgia’s one of the strongest supporters.
“As you know we have managed to build here something that had never existed in this region – a modern, functioning state,” Saakashvili told Biden.
“We can be proud of having done that, but we know that there is still lot to be done,” Saakashvili said and added that for that purpose he laid out proposals for more democratic reforms while addressing the Parliament earlier this week.
He also said that the opposition’s ongoing street protest was part of democracy.
Saakashvili said that his presidential palace, where an official dinner was taking place, “is just 25 miles from occupied territories” – referring to Akhalgori in breakaway South Ossetia.
He told Biden that he was not saying it “to scare you.”
“I know it’s very difficult to scare you,” Saakashvili added and recalled Biden’s visit to Georgia on August 18, 2008 about a week after the end of military hostilities.
Saakashvili said that despite large-scale attack by Russia, “the Georgian people stand proudly” and “we will never ever surrender.”
“While we are at a gunpoint... we believe that democracy is now needed more than ever; let me be clear on this point: for us there is no tradeoff between democracy and security. Our security environment can only be addressed by investing in our democracy,” he said and added that it would be “a long and difficult road” and Georgia needed its friends’ assistance in this regard.
In the end of his speech Saakashvili told Biden, that he remembered when “you told me [after the August war]: ‘Misha lots of people are calling you these days, but later many will stop doing it, it’s inevitable, but I will never abandon you, I will always be there for your country’. You were always there for us and will always be.”
“Joe, you know in America,” Saakashvili continued, “as anywhere on the earth you can find lots of cynics and realpolitik followers... but like in no other country in the world, in America idealists ultimately run the show.”
The official dinner, which was also attended by the U.S. delegation members, Georgian government officials and senior lawmakers, was followed by a concert of Georgian performers, involving mainly Georgian folk songs and dances.
At the Vice President’s table in a banquette room with about dozen of other tables, along with President Saakashvili there also were first lady Sandra Roelofs; U.S. ambassador in Tbilisi John Tefft and Deputy Interior Minister, Eka Zguladze.
Biden will hold an official meeting with President Saakashvili on July 23 before meeting with opposition leaders. Before departure from Tbilisi on Thursday evening he will also make a speech in the Parliament.
Meanwhile, a group of opposition parties, which planned a rally on Freedom Square after the U.S. Vice President’s arrival, had to assemble its supporters at another venue after the authorities announced on July 22 that Freedom Square would be shut down along with some other streets in downtown Tbilisi for security reasons. The rally was designed, as the organizer opposition parties said, to welcome the U.S. Vice President’s visit and to tell him that “it’s time for change in Georgia.”
A group of people, who believe that their relatives have been arrested because of political reasons under pretext of various criminal charges, tried to rally near a highway through which the Vice President’s motorcade arrived from airport to the city center. Police, however, did not allow this group of people, holding the U.S. flags and banners with the names of “political prisoners” to hold rally citing security reasons.
Another flag-waving group of people, however, was able to line up on a sidewalk on one of the streets which the Vice President’s motorcade passed. They held banners saying "Don't Forget Us", “Yes You Can”, “No to Occupation”.