Ambassador Kelly’s Remarks International Black Sea University American Studies Conference (December 1)

DSC_0299I would like to thank the rector, Dr. Ilyas Chiloglu, for his invitation and gracious hospitality today. I would also like to extend my sincere gratitude to Dr. Tamar Shioshvili and all of the faculty and students of the American Studies program.  Your commitment to strengthening mutual understanding between the United States and the wider Black Sea region is highly appreciated. I understand that while my own relationship with IBSU is relatively recent, the ties between the U.S. Embassy and this institution are strong and longstanding – including IBSU students working at the Embassy as interns, and Embassy employees frequently speaking at this institution.  I sincerely hope these ties continue to develop during my tenure as Ambassador.

It is an honor to be asked to address the American Studies program.  American Studies is, of course, as complex as America itself.  It is a fascinating, multi-disciplinary field.  Mastering the ability to draw on various fields is essential in our current global community – whether the profession is engineering, public policy, or – in my case, diplomacy.  I commend IBSU for teaching a multi-disciplinary way of analysis and problem-solving.As the President’s personal representative to Georgia, it is my job to represent our government and implement U.S. foreign policy in Georgia.  So, a couple of key questions: What is that policy, and how do we seek to implement it?

First of all, I would like to underscore that relations between the United States and Georgia are strong and vibrant and the U.S. is deeply committed to ensuring Georgia’s continued progress and success. From my perspective as Ambassador, there are three areas where the United States can work with Georgia to help achieve this success: the economy, democracy, and security arenas.

The world needs a prosperous, democratic Georgia. By implementing important economic, legal, and governance reforms, Georgia is unlocking the potential of all of its citizens and the growth of its nation and, indeed, of the wider region. A strong democracy depends on a strong economy.  Georgia is fortunate to be strategically located on what is commonly called the “New Silk Road.”  This is a transit corridor for energy and trade connecting Europe and Central Asia. This geography is exploitable to support job creation and job growth, and it makes Georgia a very important transit hub for goods and services and people.  Now that the Association Agreement with the European Union and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement has been signed, Georgian products can reach a market of 500 million Europeans.

If Georgia’s quest to integrate with the West is to succeed, it is critical to improve the climate for trade, investment, and tourism.  This is an area where the government and the opposition should be able to come together. Ultimately, however, the best guarantor of peace, prosperity, and stability is an open, inclusive society where political pluralism thrives and the rule of law is respected. As Georgia moves toward parliamentary elections in 2016, fostering a vigorous competition of ideas is vital to Georgia’s future and its desired path of integration with the Euro-Atlantic Community. To achieve this, Georgia must support and strengthen two essential elements of democracy.

First, a strong and independent judiciary. Recent reform efforts, including to Georgia’s domestic security apparatus and prisons, are commendable.  Further efforts to deepen and broaden justice sector reforms in both legislation and in practice will be important. It’s also imperative that people have faith in Georgia’s system of justice and know that it upholds their rights not only in rhetoric but in reality. Second, a viable opposition. Georgia must continue to establish and maintain an environment in which members of political and minority groups can freely express their views.  This is a healthy and necessary step in political growth.

Rivalry between political parties exists in all democratic states. We support political pluralism in all forms, as well as a free media environment in which these parties can respond to the needs of the Georgian people. Free and fair media bring Georgia closer to Euro-Atlantic integration, and builds a stronger, more legitimate partnership with the United States. Moving on to consider the question of security, there are two things I would like to discuss — external and internal security factors.

As we move into the lead-up of the NATO Summit in Warsaw, let me reiterate that the United States stands by the commitment made in Bucharest that Georgia will become a member of NATO, and we continue to strongly support its aspirations on this path. The United States also appreciates Georgia’s contributions in Afghanistan and to international peace keeping initiatives.  Of particular moment in the wake of the recent tragic events in Paris, we are grateful for Georgia’s willingness to support the coalition to defeat ISIL.  This is an international problem that demands an international answer. Considering internal security issues – Georgia faces an extraordinarily challenging situation with over 20 percent of its territory occupied by Russia and its local proxies.  The U.S. position on Abkhazia and South Ossetia remains clear:  Georgia has our unwavering support for its territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

We continue to participate in the regular Geneva international discussions to finds ways to address the security and humanitarian impacts of the conflict. These three things—democracy, economy, and security—are specific priorities that we seek to address as an Embassy working with the government and the people of Georgia.  Through these priorities, we support the Georgian government’s and population’s interest in moving closer to Europe and America through institutions like the European Union and NATO.

We use all of our Embassy’s resources, our diplomacy and our assistance, and all of our people from all these different agencies to work toward these goals.

Thank you for your attention, I wish everyone an engaging and productive conference.