Ambassador Kelly Degnan’s Remarks to Media in Marneuli

Q-n about the event

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I am so pleased to be here in Marneuli for the opening of the American Corner. This is the 9th American Corner that we have opened in Georgia and it represents a very close and long-term partnership with the Municipality. We are very pleased that Marneuli has shown such a commitment to providing a place where people can learn, exchange ideas and engage with one another in an environment that allows them to explore new ideas and opportunities. We hope that people will come to the American Corner to learn about America, our culture, our traditions, our language, the diversity that is America. That is one of the things we have in common with Marneuli – this is a town of rich diversity, and we find in America that diversity makes us stronger, so, I am sure that will be the case here, and again, I am very grateful to the Mayor, to MP Dargali, to the governor, and to Sakrebulo for their support for this initiative.

Q-n about the agreement and particularly about the Amnesty of June 20 events and whether it implies pardoning the law enforcers? Also, where do you see the solution to the situation while Nika Melia refuses to pay bail?

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: Let me start by saying that this was an important step forward to reach an agreement and I am very pleased that the parties were able to reach an agreement. This was a long and difficult process and it took real courage and leadership to make the compromises that are represented in the agreement. I think the events of June 2019 are a very painful episode for all of Georgia and it’s important that the parties agree on a way forward with the amnesty law. It doesn’t preclude accountability for those events, but it does allow the country to move forward and that relates to your question:  of course it is Mr. Melia’s personal decision whether he leaves prison or not but the agreement offers an arrangement for Mr. Melia’s release, for Mr. Rurua’s release, for the other demands that have been under discussion for six months. So, in that respect, I feel like this is truly a step forward and allows Georgia to start working on the huge challenges facing this country, including restoring the economy, dealing with COVID-19,  which we see the numbers going up, and many other challenges that really require a fully functioning parliament.

Q: How do you think, how does it compare—the Nikanor Melia case and the policemen.  How do the parties translate “amnesty?”  How is amnesty translated differently?

Ambassador Kelly Degnan:  This is something that the parties are negotiating, have been negotiating, and they will reach an understanding. I know from the negotiations that there is a deep sensitivity to what happened in June of 2019. It was a very painful episode for all Georgians, and in many ways, this is a debate that the parties need to have to move forward.

Q:  Is it the same context (the amnesty cases)?

Ambassador Kelly Degnan:  That is for Georgians to decide, not me.

Q: Our question is about the agreement. What are your expectations?  What are your recommendations for those parties that did not sign the agreement, and do you think that the fact that they did not sign will affect the implementation of the points that are given in the agreement? If they don’t sign, will it affect U.S.—Georgian relations?  Also, can you assess President Michel’s visit to Georgia?

Ambassador Kelly Degnan:  What is important is that so many Members of Parliament and parties have signed this agreement. I think they have seen that the Georgian people want this crisis to be resolved. They want the Members of Parliament to be in parliament, working on the priorities the Georgian people have, which include: jobs, high prices, restoring the economy, public health, and education. That’s what this agreement enables. It allows Georgia’s political leaders to get to work on the priorities of the Georgian people.
I think President Michel paid Georgia an enormous compliment by coming here to celebrate with you: a real step forward. His engagement on this was very important to finish a long process. Now I hope that Georgia and the United States can focus on our important agenda, long-standing initiatives that we’ve been working on together, which include many of the priorities that I’ve just talked about. We have USAID programs that are working in education, working in economic growth; we have public affairs programs that are working on people-to-people exchanges, working on (countering) disinformation, and on things like the American Corner. So, we are looking forward to being able to get to work with our Georgian partners now that this crisis is behind Georgia, and the hard work of implementing this agreement can get started.