Ambassador Degnan’s Media Comments at the Opening of the American Studies Center at IBSU
Question about the Opening of the American Studies Center at IBSU
Ambassador Degnan: Pirveli, Gilotsavt Akhal Tsels. I hope everyone had a very nice holiday. We are really thrilled to be here today at the International Black Sea University for the opening of the American Studies Center, here at the university. We’ve had a close partnership with IBSU for a long time -20 years – building this American Studies facility program here. And so today is really the culmination of 20 years of partnership working with this excellent university here in Georgia. What is wonderful about the program here is that it’s not just about improving English language schools. It’s a multidisciplinary approach to helping students better understand the United States and Georgia’s relationship. So, this is a very rich and important program.
The United States has been Georgia’s strategic partner for 30 years now, and we are constantly coordinating with Georgia, with the government and the people as to what Georgia’s priorities are. And education has been a top priority during that time. That is why the United States has invested so much in helping to rebuild schools, developed the basic curriculum, developed teacher doctrine and practices, wonderful exchange programs. At all levels, from basic education through to university level, we have had this very rich and productive partnership between Georgia and the United States. Today’s opening of the American Studies Center at IBSU is just another great example of that. Madloba.
Question about Kasyanov’s statement on Ukraine asking Georgia for weapons
Ambassador Degnan: We’ve consistently urged both Georgia and Ukraine to discuss these important issues privately and not in the public. This is a very sensitive time. Russia is waging a war to take Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence away from it. There’s a great stress and pressure on everyone. The United States has asked all our allies and partners to look to see what they’re comfortable doing to support Ukraine. To do that, Georgia has done many things, especially in the humanitarian area, in voting in the international fora. That’s what’s important that each country determines what they are comfortable doing. I think everyone is very, very aware of the sensitive situation that Georgia is in because 20% of your territory is occupied by Russia. That is the context and we would just, again, urge Georgia and Ukraine to discuss these matters in private.
Question about Khazaradze, Japaridze, and Tsereteli
Ambassador Degnan: We need to wait to see what the ruling is. Again, this is a case that’s been ongoing for some time. There have been questions, I think, raised by many about the underlying charges about the initial verdict. And, again, when the people of Georgia, when there are questions about the credibility of the outcomes of cases, this just works against confidence in the judiciary and in rule of law. The United States is working with Georgia and has been for some time to improve and strengthen the transparency and independence of the judiciary here. I think a lot of progress has been made. But clearly, when cases like this come up, that just raises more questions about the administration of the law and the ability of judges to administer the law, in accordance with the evidence presented and without interference. It just undermines overall confidence.
Question about the Georgian government assisting Russian avoidance of sanctions
Ambassador Degnan: Well, as I’ve been learning Georgian history, I have seen that it is centuries of broken promises by Russia in Russia’s attempt to deny Georgia its identity, its language, its independence, its sovereignty. I think most Georgians would rather hear that Russia was withdrawing its troops from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, and finally complying with its obligations under the 2008 treaty – rather than direct flights. I’m not aware that Georgians living in Moscow are having trouble returning to Georgia if they want to, but we certainly know there are many, many Russians who are coming into this country. On your second question – we are working with the Georgian authorities, with the border police, with customs, with the government in many areas to help ensure Georgia has the capacity to comply with international sanctions. The opportunity for Georgia to be a middle corridor for goods flowing from Central Asia to Europe is a tremendous opportunity [for Georgia], that the United States, very much supports. And we are looking to partner with Georgia to ensure that in building Georgia’s contributions to that middle corridor, it also has the capacity to ensure that international sanctions, across the board, are complied with and we will continue to offer to partner with Georgia in any of those sectors that Georgia would like. Thank you very much.