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Congressmen write an open letter to PM Gakharia over recent developments in Georgia

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Wednesday, December 18
The co-chairs of the Congressional Georgia Caucasus group addressed an open letter to the Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia in which the growing concern is expressed “regarding the recent decision to abandon promised political reforms, as well as reports of violence against peaceful protesters.”

Congressman Adam Kinzinger released his first statement about Georgian Parliament’s failure to pass the promised electoral reform on November 14. He then called on Georgian officials “to resume negotiations immediately and pass this important reform package.”

Ruling Georgian Dream party and the opposition held three rounds of foreign diplomats-mediated negotiations since late November to solve the electoral reform crisis, but their meetings proved unsuccessful as the Georgian Dream party finds proposed solutions either anti-constitutional or deficient.

A copy of the open letter was posted on Twitter by the group's co-chairman, Republican Adam Kinzinger, who wrote that the letter was sent jointly with other co-chairman, Democrat Gerald Connolly.

In a letter of December 13, the Congressmen expressed their hope that Georgian officials will “resume negotiations immediately and pass this important reform package,” noting that Georgia has been working on these reforms with the EU and Venice commission for years and stressing the importance of commitment made to international community and more importantly, to the Georgian people.

The Congressmen recalled that since declaring independence, Georgia has developed a strong democratic foundation and demonstrated a commitment to democratic values, including free and fair elections. “That is why we were shocked to hear about the collapse of promised reforms in the Georgian Parliament to move to a proportional electoral system,” they explained.

Emphasizing that “Georgians want a government of, for and by the people,” the letter highlighted that Georgians “want a government that is more aligned with the West and they aspire to join NATO and the European Union.” The letter explained that “this is why many have taken to the streets to peacefully express their concerns, only to be met by violent thugs.”

The Congressmen wrote that while any government has the right to use lawful and proportionate force against violent unrest, democracies must respect the right of citizens to use peaceful means to express their views. He noted that “the news that 100s of protestors, journalists, and political opposition leaders have been injured – and even hospitalized – by reportedly government-sanctioned violence is appalling.”

Emphasizing that Georgia has been reliable and strategic U.S. partner for almost 30 years, the Congressmen noted that the U.S. House of Representatives “recently demonstrated its commitment to Georgia” by passing the Georgia Support Act that declares the U.S.’s continued support for the independence and sovereignty of Georgia, as well as reaffirms U.S. disapproval of Russian aggression in the region. Congressmen put the turn on Georgian gov’t to “follow through with its commitment to the Georgian people.”

“We look forward to working with you to ensure that Georgia’s democracy only grows stronger in the years to come,” the letter concluded.

The Prime Minister of Georgia says he will answer critical questions from US congressmen and is part of a strategic partnership.

“The United States is a strategic partner of our country, congressmen are the leaders of Georgia's friendship group. We receive all kinds of criticism from our friends and strategic partners - of course, we have our position about it - but we receive all kinds of criticism in the working order and we see no problem here," said PM Gakharia on December 17.

At the Ambassadors Conference in Tbilisi, Gakharia told reporters that there are some questions that need to be answered and that they are part of positive cooperation, friendship and strategic cooperation.

As for the electoral system, the failure of which Congressmen call a shocking reform, Gakharia says there are legal procedures already in place - this is a decision of the Parliament and therefore no one will question the decision of the Parliament of Georgia:

“Everything else is a political process. As you know, we see this dialogue through the ambassadors. The thing is the Georgian government, our strategic partner, our friends, all care about one thing - the further democratic development of the country, which no one doubts.”

The PM says that Georgia has never had the level of a strategic partnership with the United States as it has today and has never made significant progress in Euro-Atlantic integration as it does today:

“The more results we get, the more our friends and partners demand and expect more from us. It is normal. It indicates only progress and of course, we are open to all kinds of discussions and we will continue this debate.”

As for the dispersals of the recent rallies, Gakharia announced that the US partners will be provided with the real and objective information, saying: "We are confident in all the steps taken by the law enforcement system during the rallies." According to him, freedom of expression in Georgia has never been so protected, as international organizations point out.

Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani does not think that a critical letter sent by the US Congressmen to the Georgian PM regarding the recent developments in the country has a negative impact on the US-Georgia strategic partnership.

He stated that US-Georgia relations, in all fields, are at an all-time high and the very-close cooperation and partnership will continue.