Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at the Opening of the Ozurgeti American Shelf

Question about the event

Ambassador Degnan:  I am so happy to be here in Ozurgeti, back in Guria. for the third time on this important occasion, which is the opening of the American shelf here at the library in Ozurgeti. This is a great way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Georgia and the United States. For 30 years, we’ve been working together on all the different areas that are important to building Georgia’s democracy, to making sure that the economy keeps growing so that there are good jobs for Georgians. And one of the ways we like to do this is by supporting the youth of Georgia. This American shelf is one way that we can give something to the town of Ozurgeti, through American language books, and to provide a place for youth to come and learn about America – maybe make some friends practice their English, and who knows, maybe get some ideas for the next big startup in Georgia.

Question about former President Saakashvili’s health

Ambassador Degnan:  We’re all following Mr. Saakashvili’s condition very closely. We have urged that he be seen by qualified medical professionals and that he be treated by qualified medical professionals. We have full confidence in the Public Defender’s Office and the way that she has been conducting the monitoring of Mr. Saakashvili’s health. We urge the government to take the Public Defender’s recommendations very seriously. This is the person who is mandated by the constitution to protect the human rights of every Georgian citizen and the Public Defender we feel is the right body. She’s doing a very good job and is extremely responsible. So, we have full confidence in her office’s recommendations as to the best course of action regarding Mr. Saakashvili.

Question about the international community’s role in Georgia’s democratic development

Ambassador Degnan:  The United States follows what’s going on in Georgia very closely. Georgia is an important partner for the United States. We are glad to see the political leaders working in Parliament because that is where this kind of progress and change needs to happen. We would like to see more activity in Parliament; we would like to see more implementation of the laws and the strategies that are adopted. We would like to see the ruling party and the opposition parties working together more in Parliament on the issues that are most important to the Georgian people, which are things like the economy, education, public health, roads, and water. There are a lot of challenges facing the country and the best place to address those is in Parliament with the ruling party and the opposition working together, not fighting right now with what’s going on in the region. It’s the time for Georgia’s political leaders to come together for all of Georgia to stand united, to stop attacking each other, and to start working together for the future of this country. This is an important message for the Georgian people, but it also sends a very important message to Russia and to others who are out to divide Georgia, trying to create confusion and tear this country apart from within. So, my message to the political leaders in Georgia is to stand together and work together on the issues that are most important to the people of Georgia.

Question about Georgia in the face of Russia’s war with Ukraine

Ambassador Degnan:  I have not seen President Zourabichvili via these interviews, but I can say that my leaders, including President Biden, have made very clear that Georgia is an important partner of the United States. We are taking very seriously Georgia’s vulnerability while Russia is brutally attacking Ukraine. And we have long stood beside Georgia in support of Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we will continue to do so. If you think about the 30 years we are commemorating right now of our diplomatic relations, we have for 30 years been working to help the Georgian Defense Forces to help Georgia’s security services become stronger in order to defend Georgia’s borders. That’s the Coast Guard, that’s the border police, that’s the Georgian Defense Forces, that’s the National Guard. All of these are much stronger, much more capable not only having worked with the United States on security cooperation but serving together with the United States and NATO allies in Afghanistan and Iraq. So, I would say that the United States’ support for Georgia remains very strong and my leaders have made that very clear.

 As to the question about exchanges of accusations between some people in Ukraine and some people here in Georgia, I have not heard any political leaders try to drag Georgia into this war. In fact, I have heard people be very careful and very sensitive to the fact that Georgia has Russian forces already on your territory. Georgia has already experienced the painful experience of having Russian forces attack your civilians and occupy your territory. So, I think it would really be useful right now when everybody needs to stand together for everybody to stop attacking each other. This kind of fighting only benefits Russia. It is tearing Georgia apart to have these kinds of attacks. It’s disinformation that only makes Russia happy and only serves Russian purposes.

So, much more important would be for Ukraine, for Georgia to stand together against this threat of a brutal neighbor, Russia, that is trying to take your sovereignty and territorial integrity away from you.