Ambassador Kelly Attends Second Diaspora Professional Forum and Answers Questions on Recent Developments (May 27)

6O8A7104On May 27 in Tbilisi, Ambassador Kelly attended the Second Diaspora Professional Forum hosted by the Office of the State Minister of Georgia for Diaspora Issues.  Diaspora Minister Dumbadze opened the event, where Georgia’s President, Prime Minister, and Patriarch delivered remarks encouraging diaspora Georgians to contribute their talents and experience to the development of their homeland.  In his remarks, Ambassador Kelly commended the Georgian government and Patriarch for reaching out to Georgians around the world and said diaspora citizens were an important source for promoting trade, investment, research and innovation between their homelands and countries of residence.

Question on the position of the U.S. Embassy regarding the so-called “cable case” – involving former members of the Georgian Defense Ministry

Ambassador Kelly:  Thank you very much for that question.  I don’t want to comment on the specifics of the case while the appeal is going on.  What I will say is that the United States’ main priority here is to see Georgia succeed in becoming a full-fledged, free and independent democracy.  And of course an important aspect of any democracy is an independent judiciary which is free of any political interference.  This is particularly important in an election year – that there be an independent judiciary free of political interference.  This is why we will follow this case very closely.

Follow-up question on whether the court system in Georgia is fair enough to judge the accused former members of the Ministry of Defense  

Ambassador Kelly:  Again, I cannot comment on the specifics of the charges.  Our priority here of course is to have an independent judiciary.  I want to point out that the stakes here are that we have a very important election [in Georgia this year], and I think that because the election is so important for the development of Georgia’s democracy of course we will follow this case very seriously.

Question about the election-related violence in Kortskheli near  Zugdidi

Ambassador Kelly:  This incident was very worrisome to us at the Embassy, and I know it was of great concern for the [Georgian] government as well.  And I think that the reason why it is so worrisome is that political violence has absolutely no place in a democracy.  And I think that the government should — and is — taking it very seriously.  And those who are responsible for any kind of political violence need to be held to account, especially in such an important season as this, as we enter into the electoral campaign [in Georgia] in just a few weeks.

Follow-up question on whether the Prosecutor should question both leaders from the opposition and government about the violence

Ambassador Kelly:  I think there is only one issue here.  Of course there is going to be a lot of passion, there is going to be a lot of debate and even arguments — and that is entirely natural in a democracy.  But what is not natural, what is unacceptable, is the use of violence in these debates.  And I certainly hope that the Prosecutor will get to the bottom of this and will take the necessary actions to hold responsible those people and to send a very clear signal that this is absolutely unacceptable – violence in a democracy.

Question about the Khurcha incident – the recent murder of a Georgian citizen at the ABL with Abkhazia and resumption of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism in Gali

Ambassador Kelly: We are pleased to see the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism resumed and we hope that there will be regular meetings after this.  This brutal, cold-blooded murder of the Georgian citizen is a top priority topic on the agenda today.  We hope there will be more clarity from the [de facto] Abkhazia authorities and the perpetrator will be brought to justice.