AMBASSADOR BASS: So, ladies and gentlemen (inaudible). Before I introduce the Secretary, I just wanted to say thank you to all of you here in Batumi and also to all of our colleagues and families back in Tbilisi.
Madam Secretary, you mentioned yesterday that this is a relationship that gets things done, and together with our Georgian partners, the people you see here today in this room and via video teleconference in Tbilisi are the main reason that’s true.
So it gives me great pleasure and it’s a tremendous honor and privilege to introduce our Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Well, I am so pleased to have a chance to thank you in person here in Batumi and by miracle of technology in Tbilisi. I want to start by thanking the Ambassador and Holly for not only this wonderful time we had here in Batumi, but also for their service.
And I’m very pleased that I have had a chance to see you, because I know how much work it took. I understand it took more than 30 vehicles to caravan all the people and equipment to Batumi, and I know you’ve got a 200-mile trip to get everything back home. But I am very grateful because this is such an important relationship, and we have invested 20 years in our diplomatic relations with Georgia.
We’ve worked hard every day to help Georgia move along its path of economic and democratic reform. I know that the progress can be hard-fought here to make sure that you are contributing to the remarkable story of Georgia over the last 20 years, but you really are making a difference. The work you’re doing, which has had an influence across the board, is really very prudent. We’re going to do everything we can to support you in that work, and we want to see Georgia fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community.
I have every confidence that this team can continue to deliver. We have the parliamentary elections upcoming and we want to work as hard as we can to ensure that – the level playing field that we all talk about to make a competitive environment, to ensure that the people of Georgia have a free, fair, and transparent election, and that it validates the progress that Georgia is making toward institutionalizing democracy.
I also want to recognize that we have 30 American agencies represented at our Embassy. And I’m grateful that we have this very diverse whole-of-government team. And I want to thank all the family members. And I see some of them here with us today in Batumi. Are there any Peace Corps volunteers here? Oh, good. (Laughter.) Peace Corps volunteers, well, thank you so much, because you are important ambassadors living and working with the Georgian people every single day, being living examples of American values and leadership.
And I particularly want to thank our locally employed staff, our Foreign Service nationals, our Georgians who have made such a difference. Secretaries of State come and go, even ambassadors come and go – (laughter) – and DCMs come and go, but the Georgians who are the backbone and memory bank of our team here are with us year after year. And I didn’t get a list, like I sometimes do, as to who’s been here longest, who’s been here since 20 years of diplomatic relations. But let me thank each and every one of the Georgians who is on this team.
I want to end by just saying here in Batumi and in Tbilisi, we really believe in Georgia’s future, and that’s because we really believe in the Georgian people and particularly the young people of Georgia. We have seen so many remarkable young people – young ministers and deputy ministers, young people working at the Public Service Hall in Batumi, young coast guard men and women serving their country. The young people of Georgia deserve the best possible future. And we want to be their partner as they continue to fulfill the aspirations of a modern economy embedded in strong democratic values that really does provide opportunities for every single child.
So I’m going to stay very focused on Georgia. I asked the Ambassador for updates as to how things are going, because I want to be here in 20 years – (laughter) – to celebrate with more progress on behalf of this remarkable country and the partnership and the friendship between our people. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
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