Ambassador Degnan: It’s really wonderful to be here today with 100 female entrepreneurs from all over Georgia. Many of them have been supported by USAID, the United States Embassy, with our private partner Crystal Micro Finance, to help with financing, training, professional mentorship, so that they could get their businesses going and the United States Embassy is very proud to support women entrepreneurs because we’ve seen all over the world that women’s contributions are absolutely essential to an economy growing and being strong and stable. So we are, again, as I say, very, very proud to be able to support some of the women entrepreneurs here today through the USAID YES-Georgia program. Thank you.
Q-n about a statement made by the chairman of the ruling party yesterday that a foreign official is providing incorrect information to the United States: Who can he mean under this official, how damaging can this statement be in this process, and how serious this matter can be considered, as it is not an ordinary organization, it is a Department of State.
Ambassador Degnan: I’ll leave it to the Georgian Dream leadership to clarify their comments, but let me restate the facts. The April 19 agreement clearly and explicitly states that judicial appointments will be paused until there has been a broad, inclusive, multi-party process that results in ambitious judicial reform. There has not been an inclusive, multi-party process. There has not been ambitious judicial reform. Therefore, judicial appointments should be paused. The agreement is clear. I’m not aware of any side–deals or verbal agreements, just what is in the document that Georgian Dream leadership and other political parties signed on April 19. As any good lawyer knows, when you sign an agreement, you are agreeing to the terms as written. GD had many opportunities to remove provisions regarding judicial appointments during the course of the negotiations right up until April 19 and did not do so. Let me also say that the United States has worked with thousands of wonderful Georgian partners for over 30… for 30 years to help Georgia build its democracy, strengthen its defense and security forces, improve its education and public health, and diversify its economy as we see here today. And the United States remains committed to working with the many Georgians who want to help Georgia build and become a stable prosperous democracy and who share our goal of supporting the Georgian people. Thank you.
Q-n about the boycott to certain media outlets from the GD, not answering their questions in the Parliament, and also the fact that some of them were not invited to the press briefing of the Prime Minister today: What would be your comment?
Ambassador Degnan: Obviously, media freedom is very important and that extends to all responsible outlets. That’s how the public remains fully informed and can make informed decisions. They need to be able to hear from all responsible media outlets and I’m disappointed if some outlets were excluded.
Q-n about Gharibashvili’s statement in response to the US Ambassador’s statement about the possible sanctions: Today Gharibashvili replied that there is a pro-Russian narrative regarding these sanctions and that Georgia is cooperating and it is friends with a state of the USA, not with individuals and high-ranking officials. What is the message behind his statement and what can it mean?
Ambassador Degnan: Much of what is going on right now is either Russian disinformation or plays right into Russia’s hands. And I think we should all be very careful about that. As I have said, as the State Department spokesperson said, sanctions are one tool, we would much prefer, in any case, to resolve differences through dialogue. And that is what we, what we resort to, that is what we move to first. So, in most cases, dialogue is the way differences are resolved in the long run. Thank you.
Q-n about Charles Michel’s upcoming visit to Georgia: The main discussion topic will, of course, be the April 19th Agreement, including the issue regarding judges, judicial reform, etc. What are your expectations and once again what would be your message to the political parties regarding the agreement?
Ambassador Degnan: We worked very well with the European Union during President Michel’s facilitation, mediation of the April 19th Agreement. I am not directly involved in his visit, but I think it’s a tremendous honor for Georgia to have the President of the European Council come here. The Batumi Conference is an important event and I think the level of participation is a good indication of that. So, I’m sure it will be a very useful exchange of views and a good opportunity to talk not just about Georgia, but about Georgia’s role in the whole Black Sea region. Thank you.