Senior US diplomat reminds PM Ivanishvili ‘the world is watching’ Georgia’s democratic transition

"It is absolutely critical to be scrupulous in both the reality and the perception of how this process is working"

From Philip H. Gordon, Department of State:  I noted how impressed we are with Georgia’s democratic development. Showing that you could have a free and fair and transparent election and a democratic and peaceful transfer of power is a huge step for this country and in some ways a model for the region and beyond, and I made it a point to underscore how supportive we are of that process.

The Prime Minister stressed Georgia’s interest and his interest in continued good relations with the United States, which is certainly a priority that we share, and I was able to stress to him how committed the United States is and will remain in terms of our support for Georgia, for its sovereignty and territorial integrity, for its economic development, which is really truly impressive, and for the democratic transition that is ongoing. . . .

[L]et me note how much I expressed appreciation for Georgia’s contribution in Afghanistan. I know that it required great sacrifices from this country and its troops, but it’s something that the United States is deeply grateful for in the name of our common interest and our friendship. . . .

I think both sides have Georgia’s interests at heart and they both know that it’s not in their interest either as parties or individuals or as a country to let this turn into a real fight, an act of political retributions and accusations, and that’s what I would appeal to both sides to keep that in mind: the world is watching, the international community is watching; the United States certainly feels that if Georgia continues on the path of being a stable, prosperous country integrated into the West, it needs to allow this peaceful democratic transition to move forward. . . .

I was clear with the Prime Minister that once again, nobody wants to see an absence of rule of law and if people are guilty of crimes, those crimes should be investigated and people should be held accountable, and I haven’t found anyone I’ve met with in Georgia, so far — and I’ve met with people from both sides — that disagrees with that.

But I was equally clear that, in that context, it is absolutely critical to be scrupulous in both the reality and the perception of how this process is working. If it looks like, or it is, designed solely to go after political adversaries, or it’s not done in a transparent way, then the whole country would pay a price, and so that was my message to the Prime Minister. Everyone wants to see criminals prosecuted but it needs to be done in a way that fully acknowledges the needs of due process and transparency and that’s what we hope to see in Georgia moving forward.

In terms of relations with the United States, as I mentioned, we’ve been encouraged by the first indications coming out of the new government. Where that is concerned, the Prime Minister was certainly clear with me that he wants to see the United States-Georgia relationship remain very strong, which it is. He reiterated his interest in continuing to pursue NATO membership and integration into the West and to sustaining Georgia’s free market economy, and we will look forward to welcoming him in Washington, to continue the dialogue — our relations are strong with this government.

Remarks by Philip H. Gordon, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, following meeting with Georgia’s Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.  (photo: David Mdzinarishvil/Reuters)

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