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Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at the USAID Zrda Closing Event
November 19, 2021

Question about the event

Ambassador Degnan: I’m really delighted to be here today to celebrate the successes that have come with the USAID Zrda Program. Over five years this has been a program that’s focused on supporting the resilience of Georgia’s rural communities, especially along the Administrative Boundary Line. This program has created good jobs all over Georgia.  It has increased the income of thousands of Georgian families, and it has improved the productivity and the quality of farmers’ products, and supported entrepreneurs throughout Georgia. It’s been a tremendous success, we are very excited and were going to continue to work in this area of supporting Georgia’s rural communities because we know that they’re the heart of this country. So, we look forward to launching a new initiative in the coming weeks to follow on the success of Zrda. Thank you!

Question about requests for Saakashvili’s transfer to a civilian hospital

Ambassador Degnan: We are very concerned about his condition. When human life is at risk there should be no debate about taking every step possible to provide the care that’s needed. We put great confidence in the Public Defender and her team, and the medical team that is operating under her auspices. Their assessment is that Mr. Saakashvili’s condition is critical and that he needs full care to respond to emergencies that are more and more likely to occur if he is not in an appropriate facility. I think you see there is great attention to this, not just at the U.S. Embassy, but in Washington, from other friends of Georgia like Ambassador Kelly, who are following the situation with concern, but also it’s very hard to understand why the measures that need to be taken to protect a human life that is increasingly at risk are not being followed with the recommendations of the medical providers.       

Question about Elene Khoshtaria who is also on a hunger strike and her mother’s appeal to Embassies

Ambassador Degnan: Obviously, we have been very concerned about Elene Khoshtaria’s condition for over two weeks. She has indicated that she’s doing this because she believes it will help the long-term stability of her country. Of course, I think she hopes that this will bring people together so that there can be some kind of dialogue to resolve the deep polarization that is paralyzing this country. We just want to make sure she’s receiving good medical care, that she’s not putting herself at extreme risk, even though she may feel very committed to her cause. And I would say that’s true of the other hunger strikers as well who are, again, putting their health and well-being at risk for their beliefs, and I hope that they’re getting good medical care to ensure that they can get through this. Again, it’s clear that they’re acting from their convictions, but it is very concerning to see lives at risk. I can assure you that the diplomatic community, certainly the United States, is doing everything that we can—much of it you don’t see, but we are working very hard trying to resolve this situation as quickly as possible to ensure that people’s health and well-being is taken care of. Thank you!          

Question about the attacks on Public Defender

Ambassador Degnan: Attempts to undermine or threaten the Public Defender’s office are simply unacceptable. The Public Defender and her team are doing exactly what Georgia’s Constitution empowers them to do. They’re the defender of human rights of all citizens of Georgia and they’re doing an incredible job under intense pressure to provide accurate, impartial, objective information that Georgian citizens need. There is a serious lack of that, and the Public Defender’s office is stepping in to perform her role professionally, impartially, and I think quite impressively. That is why we put great confidence in what her team reports. The assessments that they do are something that the Georgian people can rely on as objective and accurate information. She deserves a lot of support, as I’ve said before, she deserves to be commended and praised, not criticized.