Ambassador Kelly Degnan visits Gori (June 11)

Ambassador Kelly Degnan with Red Cross Representatives. Photo: State Dept

Ambassador Kelly Degnan visits Gori (June 11)

Today, Ambassador Kelly C. Degnan had the honor of making her first visit to the city of Gori. The Ambassador met with Gori Mayor Tavzarashvili and Shida Kartli Governor Khojevanishvili to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the city and the region, as well as the devastating effect on local communities of the continued illegal borderization activities along the Administrative Boundary Line and for the upcoming elections. 

The Ambassador also had informative discussions with Gori’s current and future civil society leaders. In a meeting with USAID’s civil society partners in Gori, she heard how local organizations give voice to their communities and help Georgia build a citizen-centered democracy. Meeting with youth participants in USAID’s Promoting Integration, Tolerance, and Awareness (PITA) program, she learned about the needs and perspectives of local youth and thanked them for their important role in ensuring their community’s voices are heard through their civic participation and activism.  

At the Gori Georgian Red Cross Society (GRCS) office, the Ambassador was briefed by GRCS and International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) volunteers on their dedicated outreach to those in need during the COVID-19 crisis. She joined Red Cross Field Office volunteers to deliver food and other supplies to Gori residents effected by the pandemic. 

Ambassador Degnan joined Governor Khojevanishvili, Mayor Tazarashvili, and others for a visit to Gori Fortress, where she learned about the fortress’s ongoing transformation into a living history site for tourists and local residents. With support from USAID, officials in Shida Kartli are developing the Gori Fortress into a cultural attraction for domestic and international tourists and a source of employment for local residents.  Ambassador Degnan was impressed by the beautiful traditional ceramics, enamel jewelry, and wood carvings displayed by local artisans.  She had an opportunity to sample delicious local fruit chips and chocolates, juice, and wonderful Gori wine produced by entrepreneurs from the region.   

The Ambassador completed her trip to Gori with a visit to the Gori Domestic Violence Center, supported by Embassy Tbilisi’s Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. She had a moving discussion with staff of the Center about their efforts to support victims of domestic violence. 

Ambassador Kelly Degnan’s Remarks to Media per Visit in Gori (June 11)

Q-n about Ambassador Degnan’s visit to Gori

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I am happy to be here today. This is my first visit to Gori and I am thrilled.  I am honored to be able to come to Gori, for my first visit outside of Tbilisi other than up to Odzisi earlier.  I have had very good meetings today with Mayor Tavzarashvili and Governor Khojevanishvili.  We talked about the impact of COVID-19, we talked about the really heartbreaking situation with the administrative boundary line and the separation of Georgians in this region.  And, of course preparations for the upcoming elections which will. . . I know everybody is starting to gear up for.  I had the opportunity to come here to the Georgian Red Cross, to see the really inspiring work that the volunteers are doing here today.  They have made such a difference in the lives of people in this region, and it is all their own volunteer work. USAID and the United States Embassy are very proud to work with the Georgian Red Cross, the IFRC in trying to help during this unprecedented emergency and pandemic.  I also had the chance to talk with several representatives of civil society from Gori and this region, to talk about some of the very important issues that civil society is caring for, to ensure that all the voices of these communities are heard, represented and taken into account when legislation is made, when plans are made to develop this area, ensuring that everybody in these communities is well represented and heard.  I am very impressed with the dynamism of Gori and the region.  I compliment the people of this region for the way you have come together in this emergency and the way you support each other as a community.

Q-n: if the Ambassador shares the American Congressmen’s position expressed in the open letter that mentions possible sanctions against Bidzina Ivanishvili. Georgian officials said this letter was written by an American lobbyist hired [by the opposition]   

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I have not seen the letter.  I have been in Gori. I have not seen the details of it. Again, I know that when there have been communication with Congress in the past it is because they follow Georgia closely, they care about Georgia, they recognize Georgia’s importance and they want Georgia to succeed. Again, I think that the strategic partnership we have with Georgia, between Georgia and the United Sates, is absolutely essential to both of our counties.  We have invested so much in building a partnership and cooperation with each other on so many fronts. I think that the COVID -19 cooperation that we have seen is a good example.  The Government did a very good job of managing this crisis and we were very proud to work with Georgia through the Red Cross, through the different agencies, to ensure that this emergency was well-managed here, to allow that kind of economic development that Georgia wants and needs and we want Georgia to have.  I think, there is no doubt in my mind, I have not seen that letter, but there is no doubt in my mind that this strategic partnership remains as strong as ever.

Q-n about the USG’s official position on possible sanctions against Bidzina Ivanishvili

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: That is not an official American position.  I cannot speak on behalf of the legislative branch of my government.  I represent another branch, so that is a better question to propose to Congress, but I know that for the United States, we are looking for areas of cooperation with Georgia and continuing many initiatives we have with Georgia, because we believe in Georgia’s future and Georgia’s success, and it is very important, being here on the ABL, to demonstrate our commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity and to its sovereignty. And that remains our task.

Q-n about Gubaz Sanikidze [one of the opposition members] saying legally or illegally U.S. Embassy is listening to Bidzina Ivanishili’s phone conversations

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: Who said that?  That is absurd.  I would be interested to know on what basis someone could make an accusation like that which is patently false.