Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at the Opening of Literature Festival

Question about the event
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I am very very pleased to be here tonight for the opening of the Writer’s House Literary Festival. The United States Embassy has supported the Literary Festival for over six years.  This is the sixth annual event, and we are particularly delighted tonight because the festival is dedicated to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who is an American poet from my hometown – San Francisco. The festival is a wonderful example of the common love that Americans and Georgians have for literature and for poetry. This is something very strong in my country, and a very strong tradition in Georgia as well. So, we are delighted to be able to support this event at the Writer’s House and other events at the Writer’s House as well as Georgian literature at our American Corners and American Shelves all around Georgia.
Q-n about the third president of Georgia – is Mikheil Saakashvili a political prisoner? 
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: That is not for me to decide. I know that many many Georgians are focused Mikheil Saakashvili’s situation, and I can assure you that the United State’s Embassy and Washington are monitoring his condition and his situation very closely. I hope that there is also room for the focus to be on the upcoming second round of elections, which I know he feels very strongly about as well. It is important that candidates can reach the voters with their campaigns, with their issues, with their platforms. It is very important that the next couple of weeks are calm and have the right conducive environment for a good second round on October 30. So, that’s what we are most focused on, and we will continue to monitor Mr Saakashvili’s condition.
Q-n about the pre election environment and PM’s aggressive rhetoric, having Saakashvili in prison – is this normal election environment and what should government do to resolve this? 
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I am not sure that I would ever venture to say what is normal politics in Georgia, nor would it be appropriate for me to speak and tell the government what to do. What I can say, as I just said, is – it is very important that the environment for the second round be calm, be conducted in a way that allows the public to feel safe in going to cast their votes, to feel like they can make informed choice because they have been able to hear from the different candidates. I think the focus needs to be on that – on the issues and on the candidates and not on attacks on each other and certainly not violence or any kind of aggressive speech.
Q-n about the Secretary Of Defence, Lloyd Austin’s visit and the main message of the visit
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: We are very very pleased that Secretary Austin is coming to Georgia tomorrow. It is a strong sign of the United States’ continued support for Georgia’s security and for our security cooperation The meetings are going to focus on what more we can do together, Georgia and the United States, to build Georgia’s security capacity, and it’s like a next chapter in a long series of initiatives through which Georgia and the United States have worked together. We really look forward to welcoming Secretary Austin, and again, I think it is a sign of the continued importance that Georgia’s security plays in the United States. Thank you!