U.S. congressional delegation, led by Democratic Senator Ben Cardin held talks with the Georgian leadership and representatives from UNM opposition party in Tbilisi on June 29.
The delegation, which after Tbilisi is heading to Baku to participate in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly session, includes Democratic Senator Tom Harkin; Republican Congressmen Robert Aderholt, Phil Gingrey, David Schweikert and Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. The delegation met President Giorgi Margvelashvili; PM Irakli Garibashvili and some other government members.
“We thought it was important to come to Georgia because of its importance to the United States and its importance to this region,” Senator Cardin told journalists after talks in Tbilisi on Sunday.
“In each of these meetings we stressed friendship between our two countries, the importance of bilateral relationship between our two countries and how we look forward to strengthening those ties,” said Senator Cardin, who chairs the U.S. Helsinki Commission and who is a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“I must tell you we’ve been extremely impressed by the quality of the leadership in Georgia, their ability to transition from one government to another and… we are here shortly after the local elections – we congratulate the people of Georgia for their commitment to democracy and basic human rights,” he said.
Asked if the issue of providing Georgia with anti-tank and air defense weapons was raised during the delegation’s talks in Tbilisi, Cardin responded: “As President Obama has made very clear the United States is committed to its partnerships in Europe and that includes security partnerships. I know there have been direct talks between the leaders of Georgia and the administration in Washington concerning how we can be helpful. I do not know status of those talks, but those talks have taken place.”
Senator Cardin co-sponsored a bipartisan bill together with John McCain and several other senators that envisages imposing sanctions on human rights abusers from anywhere in the world. If approved the bill, known as Global Human Rights Accountability Act, which was endorsed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 24, would expand globally Russia-specific sanctions of the 2012 Magnitsky Act and would deny entry into the U.S. and bar from using the U.S. financial institutions to those “responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”
Asked what role this act, if adopted, can play in this region and in Georgia, Senator Cardin responded: “The legislation does not at all aim at a country that has judiciary and law enforcement that deals with the problems within their own country to protect the human rights of its citizens and Georgia is one of those countries.”
“So this bill is not at all directed towards country like Georgia that deals with its human rights needs and [is] developing an independent judiciary and the confidence that all people’s rights will be protected,” Senator Cardin added.
He also said that the U.S. congressional delegation reiterated Washington’s strong support to Georgia’s territorial integrity and its European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations.