Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at the Field Epidemiology Program Graduation

Question about the event

Ambassador Degnan: This is a really important date: to be part of the graduation of the first cohort of field epidemiologists. This is an opportunity to bring together regional public health experts to develop their expertise in identifying potential diseases that can affect all of our societies. This brought together public health experts from Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, and Azerbaijan to share experiences, to train together, to build a network of experts that are going to help keep societies in this region safer. We have seen over the last two-and-a-half years just how vitally important this kind of collaboration and information sharing is, and how important it is to have the skills needed to protect our societies against these kinds of diseases that can be spread in so many different ways. So, it was a very successful event, and it was wonderful to see graduates today who are going to go out and to help make their society safer.

Ambassador Degnan: Before I answer further questions, I would like to emphasize the message from senior officials in Washington, strongly condemning Mr. Lukashenko’s visit to occupied Abkhazia yesterday. The United States stands firmly with the people of Georgia, whose political leaders across the political spectrum have spoken out against this unacceptable visit that violated international laws. It’s particularly painful, and I would say offensive, that this visit happened the day after we marked the 29th anniversary of the fall of Sokhumi. I personally, and many others, laid a wreath to honor the memory of all those who died in the war in Abkhazia. The United States is a steadfast supporter of Georgia’s sovereignty and territory integrity within internationally recognized boundaries, and we will continue to work for the peaceful restoration of the occupied territories and for peace throughout this region.

Question about a news story claiming Georgia rejected an offer of U.S. defense equipment 

Ambassador Degnan: The recent claim about an alleged offer of new defensive equipment to Georgia is factually inaccurate. We have asked all of our partners around the world to do whatever they need to support Ukraine against Putin’s brutal war. This is because Ukraine is fighting for its freedom, for its sovereignty: it’s fighting for its independence and its freedom as a nation. We have been very clear from the beginning that it is up to each nation to decide what they can do to help Ukraine. We’ve also been very clear, including with Georgian government officials, that we have never asked Georgia to open a second front. We have never pressured Georgia to be involved in this war. The United States does not want Georgia to be involved in this war – or any other country. We are doing everything we can, and we have been for almost a year now, to prevent this war from starting, to stop it as soon as we possibly can, so that we can restore peace and stability to the region. That is what the United States is working for: peace and security.

Question about the increase of Russians in Georgia 

Ambassador Degnan: This is a very complicated issue, and it really is up to the government of Georgia to set the policy for this. You see that different countries are taking different measures based on their circumstances. It’s going to be up to the Georgian government to decide on the best way to address this, trying to balance the concerns of security, which is first and foremost, as well as trying to support those fleeing repression and war in Russia and Ukraine.

Question about de-oligarchization

Ambassador Degnan: De-oligarchization is one of the 12 priorities listed by the European Commission because of its very important impact on society. Addressing the other 11 priorities will have a great impact on reducing, or even eliminating, the undue influence of anyone – any funding or any person – that is trying to influence the economic, political or social fabric here. Addressing undue influence in the political processes is what de-oligarchization is all about. That is why, if other priorities are dealt with in a genuinely effective way, I think the risk of undue influence will be eliminated, and certainly reduced.