DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG:
Good afternoon, everybody. It’s been my great pleasure and honor to welcome Minister Vashadze here to the State Department. As you know, I’m standing in for Secretary Clinton who is recovering from her injury. And she’s on the mend, but still has a way to go. So I’ve had the honor and privilege of being here today. And we’ve had a terrific lunch and a series of meetings through the course of today.
The most important feature of this visit is the opportunity that we’ve had to launch the U.S.-Georgia committee on our strategic partnership which opens a new chapter of our longstanding and deep friendship between our two countries. And today, we’ve had working groups addressing the real breadth of our relationship, including working groups on the economy, defense and security, democracy, and people-to-people exchanges. And these meetings underscore the commitment that we have to implementing the important agreement – our charter with Georgia, as we deepen this strategic partnership.
We strongly support Georgia’s economic and political reforms, and pleased to note that as a result of the Congress’s passage of the supplemental, we’ve now completed our commitment to provide $1 billion in assistance to Georgia. In our meetings today, as we continue to do, we reaffirmed our strong support for Georgia’s independence and territorial integrity. We will continue to support Georgia’s military professionalization and to help Georgia as it contributes to coalition operations and undertake the reforms that will be required to achieve NATO membership. Georgia has made valuable contributions in the past to our operations in Iraq, and we’re especially grateful for Georgia’s decision to do so again in Afghanistan.
We appreciate Georgia’s government’s restraint in response to the recent street protests in Georgia. And we continue to work with Georgia to help strengthen its democracy and its reforms.
And finally, as I said, we’re particularly focused on enhancing our people-to-people cultural exchanges with Georgia, which is the true strength of our bilateral ties.
So we are very pleased to have our friends here. We had a wonderful delegation discussing a broad range of issues, and I’m very grateful to the minister for taking the time to be with us here today. FOREIGN MINISTER VASHADZE:
Thank you. It is a privilege and honor to be here. Everything was covered, so I will add just a couple of words. Four working groups met each other, and they discussed very specific, very precise projects, proposals which are going to be translated into international bilateral legal instruments. It’s a historic day for Georgia, like it was when we signed the charter. It is one single most important agreement in modern history of our country, signed since we regained our independence. And we are very thankful to our hosts, to American delegation, for this useful and very result-orientated work. We’ve been using the United States friendship, advice, assistance since first day of our independence, and we will try our best to be responsible ally and show the same kind of dedication they did. Thank you very much.MR. KELLY:
Okay. We’ll take two questions. First, Arshad Mohammed, Reuters. QUESTION:
Secretary Steinberg, on Iran, you’re obviously aware of the violence over the weekend. There are reports of ten dead, more than a hundred injured. One, how do you address the Republican criticisms that the Administration is, in effect, pulling its punches in its statements on Iran and has not been forceful enough in trying to support democratic forces there? Do you feel that you simply have no choice because to take a more robust position might impair your dealings with whoever prevails?
And secondly, can you tell us just a little more about how Secretary Clinton is doing? The Greek foreign ministry says she’s not coming to Corfu and that Under Secretary Burns will be going. Is that right? And who will then be going to Trieste?DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG:
Well, thank you, Arshad. First, let me say that I’m not sure I agree with your characterization of the perspective on the issue in Iran. I think there have been a number of very influential voices, both Republican and Democrat, who have recognized that the President has said that this is an issue that’s about the Iranians and for the Iranians to decide. The President made very clear over the weekend that we are concerned about the violence.
We think it’s very important that if this is going to be an issue for the Iranians to decide, that all the voices should be heard, that the process should be fair, and that people should be allowed to express their opinions. But I think this is not a partisan issue. I think this is people who understand and want to support the principles that the President talked about, have understood the approach that we’re taking.
The Secretary is doing better. She successfully came through her surgery. She was able to come by and visit with us in the Department this morning. She was very warmly welcomed in all her meetings, but she does have a road to travel in terms of her recovery and rehabilitation. We will be represented very well in Trieste by Under Secretary Burns, Special Representative Holbrooke, and Special Envoy Mitchell, who will all be in Trieste. And it has fallen to me to be her representative in Corfu, so I will be representing the United States in those meetings at Corfu.MR. KELLY:
And then the final question to (inaudible). QUESTION:
Secretary Steinberg, how do you comment on this meeting which was today in State Department? Can you tell us more details about United States and Georgia future relations between security and the other questions, other issues? You know that Russia, we’re told last Monday, a UN mandate presents in Abkhazia. How would you comment this fact? And also, what your expectation about Obama and Medvedev meeting in July?DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG:
That’s a tall order for one question, but let me see what I can do. (Laughter.)
First of all, we had a very good meeting that really covered the full range of political, economic, and security issues. It’s a reflection of the breadth of our relationship that we had – we’re able to talk about so many different aspects of how we’re working together on helping to develop economic prosperity in Georgia, helping to deepen democracy and political reforms, and helping to assure that Georgia can sustain its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We discussed the way forward on security cooperation and ideas about Georgia’s participation in Afghanistan, which we greatly appreciate the leadership that they’ve shown, just as Georgia did in Iraq. And we talked about how we would cooperate in the meetings in Corfu and the like. And so we had a broad-ranging discussion, and we committed to both continue and deepen our partnership and agreed that we would continue this strategic dialogue and our committee on the strategic partnership again this fall in Tbilisi, which we’re looking forward to carrying out together.
We have made very clear the President is looking forward to his meetings with President Medvedev in Moscow. It’s a chance not only to deepen our bilateral relationship, but also to make sure that the U.S.-Russia relationship contributes to the security and prosperity of all the countries in the Euro-Atlantic area. This is – we believe very strongly that by building a better relationship, if we can, with Russia, it will contribute to the well-being and security of countries like Georgia. And that would be very much our aim. We do not see our relationship with Russia in any way as detracting from or at the expense of the security or well-being of any of the countries in the region, any of our partners.
So I think this is really a great opportunity for us to continue to build our relationship together, to be able to really get down, as the minister said, to very concrete ways of cooperating with each other. And we’re looking forward to the work that we’ll do now and then, and then when we get together next in Tbilisi.MR. KELLY:
Okay, thank you.DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: