U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, Victoria Nuland, who met Georgian leadership and opposition representatives in Tbilisi on February 17 reiterated U.S. “unwavering” support to the country and called on Georgia to use this year for accelerating reforms.
Nuland leads an inter-agency delegation, which also includes officials from the White House and the Department of Defense, and which is on a trip to three South Caucasus countries. She held talks in Azerbaijan on February 16 and will head to Armenia on February 18.
The delegation met President Giorgi Margvelashvili; PM Irakli Garibashvili; Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili, as well as representatives from opposition UNM party; meeting with opposition Free Democrats party is also planned. During the visit, a member of the delegation Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, met Georgian defense minister Mindia Janelidze.
“We are here to demonstrate America’s unwavering support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, for your democratic course, for you European path and for your Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” Nuland told journalists on February 17.
She said that “strong security relationship” between the U.S. and Georgia was discussed during her meetings in Tbilisi.
“We are also working now to implement NATO’s substantial package and you will see significant American role in that during 2015,” said Nuland, who thanked Georgia for being the second largest contributor to the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.
“We also talked about economy, strengthening the climate for investment, I also talked with the opposition about their reform ideas – this is the area where the government and the opposition ought to be able to come together to support strong growth here and take maximum advantage given by DCFTA [deep and comprehensive free trade agreement] with the EU,” she said.
“Obviously the rule of law climate is absolutely essential to continue to strengthen Georgia’s democracy, strengthen the climate for investment and keep Georgia on the positive trajectory.”
She stressed that “due process is absolutely essential” and added that the U.S. encourages the Georgian government “to look to the future, look to institutional, structural reforms and ensure that there is full transparency and due process in cases that are moving through the courts now.”
“We also talked a little bit about the OSCE’s recommendations – these are the things that we can work on together,” she said apparently referring to trial monitoring report, compiled by OSCE observers, who monitored 14 trials of former government officials and who identified shortcomings and recommendations to address those issues.
“Your democracy is your greatest protection against outside interference here; it is also the best guarantee that economic reform will succeed, that politics will stay civil,” Nuland said.
“So overall, our message was one of unity, one of looking forward, one of using 2015 to accelerate the reform process, accelerate the work towards Europe, that all Georgians need to hung together, need to work together at this essential moment for your democracy,” she said, adding that the U.S. is “proud to be your partner and we have a lot of work to do together.”