U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Georgia’s Black Sea resort town of Batumi late on Monday, where she will meet Georgian leadership, opposition representatives on June 5.
She arrived in Georgia from Armenia and will then visit Azerbaijan on June 6. This is her second trip to the region. Secretary Clinton first visited three states of South Caucasus in July, 2010.
Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze welcomed the Secretary of State in the Batumi airport.
On Tuesday morning Clinton will open the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission plenary session. The commission was established under the 2009 strategic partnership charter between the two countries, which sets a framework of bilateral cooperation, covering four priority areas, involving defense and security; trade and economy; democracy and people-to-people contacts. The Secretary of State will meet President Saakashvili, followed by a joint news conference.
The Secretary of State will also participate in a ceremony of handing over of two Georgian coast guard patrol boats, renovated and modernized with the U.S. funding..
She will meet representatives from three opposition groups, involving Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of New Rights Party; MP Giorgi Targamadze, leader of Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) and three representatives from Bidzina Ivanishvili-led opposition coalition, Georgian Dream: Davit Usupashvili, leader Republican Party, Tea Tsulukiani, deputy chairperson of Our Georgia-Free Democrats and Manana Kobakhidze, chairperson of Ivanishvili’s party. Ivanishvili indicated last week that he wanted to meet the Secretary of State separately, not jointly with representatives from two other parties – CDM and New Rights, which Ivanishvili describes as “pseudo opposition.”
Opposition politicians said on June 4, that they would focus on upcoming elections, as well as security and Georgia’s NATO integration process during the meeting with Clinton.
Tina Khidasheli of the Georgian Dream said that the coalition representatives would focus on the need for free and fair elections and the need for taking efforts in order to not to allow President Saakashvili to take any actions that might harm Georgia’s interests “in the condition of his inevitable defeat” in the elections.
MP Giorgi Targamadze, leader of CDM, said he would focus on issues related to upcoming elections, democratic reforms and Georgia’s NATO integration.
Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of New Rights Party, said he would raise issues related to Georgia’s NATO integration, as well as security in the context of ties with Russia.
In the lead up to Secretary Clinton visit, officials from the U.S. Department of State met in Batumi on June 4 with representatives of civil society representatives to discuss democratic reforms in the country with focus mainly made on election-related issues.
A group of Georgian election watchdog, legal advocacy and media organizations have also appealed to Secretary Clinton ahead of her visit to Georgia on June 5, calling on her to raise the need for further legislative amendments to improve electoral environment in the country ahead of the October parliamentary elections.
Also on June 4, Georgian Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia met senior officials from U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State in Batumi to discuss bilateral defense cooperation.