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Ambassador Degnan's Remarks to Media at the Media Center of Kakheti
February 2, 2023

Ambassador Degnan's Remarks to Media at the Media Center of Kakheti

Question about Ambassador’s visit to the region

Ambassador Degnan: I am so delighted to be back in Kakheti. We started the day yesterday in Gurjaani. We had a great visit to the village school of Gurjaani, where I met with students who are studying English. It was a very impressive school and classroom. It’s one of the schools that the Millennium Challenge Corporation renovated, so we have a long partnership with Gurjaani. I also had a chance to meet with a group of very impressive women from the region who are both businesswomen, entrepreneurs, and working to improve their communities through different activities. We had a great discussion about a lot of the work that they’re doing, again, to improve their communities, which improves their families, and ultimately Georgia as a whole. We visited Gremi, which was impressive, and had a very good conversation with the priest at Gremi. We had a chance to visit the American Corner in Telavi, one of my favorite things to do. It’s the oldest American Corner in Georgia. It was great to hear from some of the young Telavi residents who have been making good use of our programs, learning not only English but technology skills and business skills, and speaking skills. So, I look forward today to hearing from the entrepreneurs here at the Kakheti Media Center. This has been a close partner of ours through various grants that the U.S. Embassy has given over the years to help women and entrepreneurs in particular develop their businesses, create jobs, and stimulate business for the Kakheti region. We think this is a terrific contribution to strengthening the economy, and we’re delighted to be able to support that.

Question about former President Saakashvili’s situation

Ambassador Degnan: This is a very important question. Before I answer your question, I’d like to make one further comment. Yesterday we met with the regional court in Gurjaani and had a very good discussion about the kinds of cases that are there. The United States is very proud of the nonpartisan work we’re doing on judicial reform with our Georgian partners. The American taxpayers support this through USAID programs because we want to help Georgia achieve your goal of European membership, but also your goal of building strong democratic institutions. All of our programs, including those in judicial reform, are agreed on with the government in advance, and we provide quarterly reports to Parliament about our work in these areas. We work with partners like the East-West Management Institute and others on judicial reform, providing legal aid to those who need representation and can’t afford it, or to help build an impartial, independent and transparent judicial system for Georgia. This is for Georgia’s benefit. It’s also to help Georgia move toward that European future that the majority of Georgians want and deserve. So, when I have the chance to meet with judges, as I did yesterday in Gurjaani, and as I have all over the country, over a hundred judges now, I am constantly reminded of the benefits of the judicial reform work we do together with our Georgian partners to improve the judiciary, to make it more efficient, to make it better serve the citizens of Georgia. That is something that we do with great pride and feel that it’s a real privilege to be able to work with our Georgian colleagues in that area. 

As to your question, I would say this is a serious situation. As we saw yesterday, as we’ve been hearing, my government and many other governments are following it very closely and are concerned. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that Mr. Saakashvili receives the medical treatment that he needs. That is something that I think we are all focused on, to ensure that we understand what his diagnosis is, what he needs, and then that the government is providing that care. We will continue to follow this case very closely.

Question about CDA Kasianov’s recent statement and the conversation between Karasin and Abashidze about the resumption of flights 

Ambassador Degnan: On the first question, I’ve answered that a number of times, so I would suggest maybe you ask the Ukrainian Embassy because I’ve answered that a number of times. On your second question, I am not familiar with the details of it because I’ve been here in Kakheti, but I can say that I think most Georgians are not interested in moving closer to Russia right now; while Russia continues to occupy 20% of your territory, while Russia continues to attack and brutally assault civilians, civilian schools and hospitals and cities in Ukraine, trying to take Ukraine’s sovereignty and territory and identity the way Russia has tried to do in Georgia. This is not the time I think Georgians are looking to move closer to Russia at all.