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Press Availability Following Meeting with Prime Minister Ivanishvili


Remarks
Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Tbilisi, Georgia
November 16, 2012

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Date: 11/16/2012 Description: Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip H. Gordon speaks with journalists following his meeting with Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili in Tbilisi, Georgia; November 16, 2012. - State Dept Image

Assistant Secretary Gordon: We had an excellent and comprehensive meeting, and I started by congratulating the Prime Minister on his election victory, on the majority that his party won on behalf of the United States and Secretary Clinton.

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.

I also stressed how important it is and will continue to be for the two sides to work together. We know it’s not easy after a bitter election campaign -- we just had an election campaign in the United States as well, you may have noticed -- it’s not always easy to work with your political opponents, but it’s essential for a democracy to thrive.

In that context I stressed, we talked about the issue of arrest and detention, which I know is a lot in the media today, and I stressed how critically important it is for the process to be absolutely transparent, with due process. Everybody wants to see the rule of law implemented, and anybody who has committed a crime to be held accountable, but at the same time it’s essential to avoid any perception or reality of selective prosecutions and that was a point that I stressed, and I think it’s important for Georgia’s reputation in the world and its path towards the Euro-Atlantic institutions that we again strongly support.

Finally let 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.

That’s the essence of our meeting and I’d be happy to take a couple of questions.

Question: How can you imagine a cohabitation between Saakashvili and [inaudible] detentions and parliamentary minority claims that this is political?

Assistant Secretary Gordon: Indeed, and that’s what we’re watching very closely.

First I would note there have been some positive signs. The simple fact of President Saakashvili acknowledging the results of the election, accepting that the voters had spoken and the other side won, and supporting that peaceful, democratic transition is already a positive step and we welcome the magnanimous way in which he recognized the election results.

We’ve also seen some positive signs from Prime Minister Ivanishvili I believe as recently as yesterday saying that he plans to work with President Saakashvili, respects that the constitution leaves the President in place, and at least for now you have a Prime Minister and a government and a President of different political orientations -- already those are positive steps.

But at the same time, naturally there are tensions -- that’s inevitable after a hard-fought political campaign. We’re just stressing to both sides how important it is not to let those tensions stand in the way of rule of law, constitutional authority and due process.

In our favor, if you will, is the fact that 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.

Question: Mr. Gordon, your European colleagues made quite strong statements about the arrests in Georgia. Does the United States share these concerns you have talked a lot about? [Inaudible] strong statements. Also how would you see the balance in foreign policy between relations of Georgia with United States and Russia?

Assistant Secretary Gordon: First, I think I was pretty clear myself and 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.

Question: When will be the visit?

Assistant Secretary Gordon: We’ll announce it when we have something to announce.

Question: Are you going to meet with the Georgian President?

Assistant Secretary Gordon: I do expect to meet him, yeah.

Question: Thank you very much.

Assistant Secretary Gordon: Thank you.

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