Ambassador Kelly’s Comments to the Media after Reception on the USS Porter in Batumi (October 22)

Q: Your comment regarding developments around Rustavi 2?

Ambassador Kelly: If you allow me just to say a few words in the beginning on how happy I am to be back here in Batumi. This is my second visit to Batumi. I came here three years ago with a delegation.

Regarding Rustavi 2, I have made many comments on Rustavi 2 and I’d like to think that I’ve been very consistent. What the U.S. supports is the principle of media pluralism, of the access of all voices to the airwaves. So this is what I think our big concern is:  we don’t want to see any restriction of the media space here.

The reason for that is that we really want Georgia to succeed. Georgia is rightfully acknowledged as the model of media freedom and democratic pluralism, and I think one of the great symbols of our desire for Georgia to succeed is right here – a U.S. Navy ship, a billion dollar U.S. Navy ship to show that we want our partnership to succeed, and an important part of that of course is a true political pluralism.

Q: What do you have to say on statements [regarding videos of torture, Rustavi 2] that the PM and the President have made contradicting each other.?

Ambassador Kelly: I’ve seen media reports on various statements. Let me just say that I’m not a member of the Georgian government, I’m not elected by the Georgian people [and] it is not for me to comment on this.  I will say that I have seen some good comments today, too, calling for a dialogue and calling for calm.  We have seen that from President Margvelashvili, we have seen that from other Georgian officials as well, such as the Speaker of Parliament I think – a very good call for a dialogue.  And in general I think what our friends here in Georgia need is to have a dialogue.

Q: The government says it is in negotiations with Gazprom. Do these negotiations pose a threat for Georgia?  Can this make Georgia dependent on Russian energy supplies?  What would your recommendations be?

Ambassador Kelly: Again, this is a sovereign decision for the people of Georgia and the government of Georgia to make in terms of their energy supplies.  And I think as a general principle it is very important for any country’s energy security not to rely on a single provider, or only a handful of providers.  The important thing is diversification of suppliers. So, that would be my only comment on this.

Q: Minister of Energy Kaladze said former government of President Saakashvili wanted to sell Georgia’s gas pipeline to Russia, and if not for the interference of the U.S. Government, the pipeline would have ended in Russia’s hands.  Also, Minister Kaladze said the U.S. provided funds for the pipeline’s rehabilitation in return for a provision the it would not be sold. Are you familiar with the agreement and is there a provision like that?

Ambassador Kelly: I don’t know the details of the agreement. I think we would have to get more specifics on what you are talking about. So obviously, not knowing the details I cannot comment on it.

Q: Your comment on the ship visit and the reception on board of a ship?

Ambassador Kelly: I have participated in a number of events that highlight the partnership between the U.S. military and the Georgian military.  I’ve been here a month and I’ve participated in several [events] and all of them of course highlight the importance of defending our common values.  But I think this particular visit is particularly important, because it highlights the importance of cooperation on the Black Sea and the importance of keeping open international sea lines and working together and operating together.  I think this is probably the most resonating event that I have participated in.