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US State Secretary meets leadership and non-governmental sector

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Thursday, November 19
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Tbilisi with his wife, Suzanne Pompeo, on the evening of November 17 as a part of his official seven-nation tour of Europe and the Middle East. He held meetings with Georgia's top officials, Patriarch Ilia II, and representatives of the NGO sector.

On behalf of the United States, Pompeo reaffirmed his commitment to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and its significant contribution to the fight against global terrorism at a meeting with Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili.

"It was confirmed how close America and Georgia are. How strong is the US's support for Georgia, for this region, especially today, when changes are taking place," stressed the Georgian president. According to Zurabishvili, Georgia remains a strong pillar of American policy in the region. During the meeting, she said that our region and the world need a peaceful, stable, and the democratic Caucasus.

According to the press service, the president thanked the US Secretary of State for strong support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and noted that achieving peaceful de-occupation has no alternative and that this requires effective negotiations, the strengthening of Geneva and other possible formats.

At the meeting with Pompeo, Zurabishvili expressed hope that the existing cooperation between Georgia and the United States will move to a new level and start negotiations on free trade.

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia and the US Secretary of State discussed the main directions of the strategic partnership between the two countries and the prospects of deepening strong cooperation as well as subjects of strengthening security in Georgia and the region.

Gakharia called Pompeo a true friend of Georgia and personally thanked him and the US for supporting the strategic partnership: "This is the most important partnership we have."

Gakharia assured that the moment has come to deepen cooperation on defense and security, economic and democratic consolidation, to strengthen partnership, as well as the enhanced American representation in this region.

Gakharia spoke about the importance of the Lugar Laboratory as the US's excellent assistance in supporting Georgia through the pandemic.

“The whole world, including Georgia, is facing the challenge of the virus from China. We will deal with it together, take care of our people and develop the economy, which is very important for the well-being of your country, region, and the world,” responded the US Secretary of State.

Pompeo stated that the US and Georgia have been excellent friends for 30 years, the US supports Georgia in democratic issues and works together on the difficulties arising from the occupation:

“We will do everything in the future to support the democratization process of your country, to strengthen the institutions that are important for free and fair elections, and all that comes from healthy discussion and democracy.”

According to the American embassy, the Secretary of State also stressed the importance of electoral and judicial reforms. The meeting highlighted cooperation in further strengthening trade and economic relations and the democratic development of the country.

According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Davit Zalkaniani, there wasn't 'any direct interference' regarding the election topic at the meeting. The minister stated that the elections are Georgia's internal political process, and the United States is the main strategic partner, which calls on all political actors in Georgia to go through the political process and stay within the legal framework.

Opposition parties in Georgia have called the October 31 parliamentary elections rigged and are requesting a re-run. During Mike Pompeo's visit, opposition activists and activists rallied on Rustaveli Avenue against election fraud.

After the meeting with the patriarch, Pompeo tweeted: “It was my great pleasure to meet with His Holiness, Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarch Ilia II today. As a member of the International Religious Freedom Alliance, Georgia’s role in promoting and protecting religious freedom around the world cannot be overstated.”

Pompeo also met with representatives of civil society. After the meeting, members of the NGOs spoke about the problems of the judiciary, informal governance, the case of Giorgi Rurua, the case of cartographers, the Anaklia project, and the October 31 parliamentary elections. As reported, the conversation about the elections was only in the context of the judiciary.

According to the Head of the Center for Economic and Political Research Nino Evgenidze, organizations touched upon the problems with the rule of law and reversing democratic rule, focusing on informal governance, as well as the topic of Anaklia deep-sea port.

Gia Gvilava, a representative of Transparency International-Georgia said that high-profile cases such as the case of ‘cartographers’, Anaklia, Philip Morris, and others were also discussed at the meeting with Pompeo. According to him, the US Secretary of State asked about the ‘clan’ in the court and the meeting mostly focused on judicial issues.

Gvantsa Tsulukidze, a representative of the Georgian Democratic Initiative, said that she spoke about specific cases, "which prove that the court is used as a political tool to neutralize political opponents."

"Of course, I could not bring all the cases to prove it, but I paid special attention to the case of Giorgi Rurua, the case of cartographers, the case of civil activists, and finally the case of the two monitors accused of leading a friend to suicide," Tsulikidze explained.

According to Tsulukidze, it was also noted that there are election disputes, most of which are left unresolved.