Ambassador Kelly’s Remarks to the Press at Tbilisi International Conference (September 7)
Q: Ambassador’s impressions of the conference
A: Well this is a very important conference bringing together some of the most articulate and forceful advocates for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration and I think it’s yet another token of the United States’s commitment to helping Georgia succeed not only in its Euro-Atlantic integration but in its aspirations to become a democratic and prosperous sovereign state.
Q: Strategy against Russian threats
A: We are very committed to Georgia being able to deter any kind of aggression. We’re working closely with them to develop a strategy for Georgia to become a real resilient country and part of that resilience, of course, is deterring any aggression. You know that when Secretary Kerry was here he signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding about what the parameters would be for this kind of bilateral cooperation and we have already started discussions toward implementing a bilateral program of helping Georgia with its self defense.
Q: Republican Party initiative about U.S. military bases in Georgia
A: Well I think here we have to look at exactly what this proposal means. I think now the United States already has a big presence here, multilaterally in the sense of the leading role that we play in the JjointTtraining and Eevaluation Ccenter under NATO, but also with Resolute Support where we have at any one time about 150 Marines here out in that same area–Krtsanisi area–where the Ttraining andEevaluation Ccenter is. And then, of course, we’re going to be starting up another bilateral program, the Georgia Readiness Program, which we are talking with the Georgian Ministry of Defense about in terms of what the contours will be of this program; we’re in very early stages. But as I say, it all depends on what the details of this proposal would be and it’s an interesting proposal we’ll have to look at.
Q: Georgian pre-election environment
A: Our position has not changed and has been very consistent. And I think my role has always been to point out what the stakes are in this pre-election environment, how we should all be focused on ensuring that there is a free and fair pre-election environment, and a very important component of that is, of course, access of all parties, including opposition parties, to the media and in that regard we have been very outspoken, some would say even too outspoken, in terms of the need to have all stations be able to maintain–especially in this critical period–its editorial independence, including Rustavi 2.
Q: Importance of NATO Sec-Gen’s visit
A: I think it’s really important. I think it’s important to show that NATO remains committed to its open door policy; remains committed to ensuring that Georgia has all the tools it needs to become a NATO member, when that time, when the political atmosphere is right, and the fact that you have the head of the NAC, the Secretary General, the head of the North Atlantic Council, plus members of the North Atlantic Council, is a tremendous show of support that the Euro-Atlantic community stands with Georgia in its sovereign decision to become a member of the Euro-Atlantic community.