U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili chaired the fifth plenary session of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission on November 2 at the U.S. Department of State. The Strategic Partnership Commission (SPC) serves as the primary strategic bilateral dialogue to deepen cooperation between the United States and Georgia and to advance our shared goal of Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration. The Commission focused on advancing bilateral cooperation in the areas of democracy; defense and security; economics, trade, and energy; and people-to-people and cultural exchanges.
The United States reaffirmed its strong commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence. U.S. co-chairs called again on the Russian Federation to fulfill its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, and commended the Georgian government on its measured reaction to Russian provocations. The United States also reiterated its strong support for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic membership path and European integration, including its Association Agreement with the EU, and welcomed Georgian efforts to work with the EU toward the quick implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. The sides underscored the importance of high-level visits as a sign of continuous commitment to strengthening the bilateral strategic partnership.
Economics, Trade, and Energy: The SPC welcomed Georgia’s growing economic role in the region as a trade and transportation hub, demonstrated by the recent success of the Silk Road Forum to galvanize regional support for a commercial corridor linking Europe and Asia via the Caucasus. The SPC reaffirmed the importance of continued cooperation to ensure Georgia’s energy security through the completion of the Southern Gas Corridor and further development of Georgia’s renewable energy resources. Both sides noted progress made at last week’s round of the U.S.-Georgia High-Level Dialogue on Trade and Investment, hosted by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and agreed to continue working through that format to strengthen trade and investment between our countries, including the possibility of a free trade agreement. Georgia congratulated the United States on the successful completion of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, welcomed the progress on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, and expressed interest in the possibility of cooperating with the aforesaid platforms. To further deepen the U.S.-Georgia economic partnership, we committed to taking practical steps to seek out opportunities for cooperation in specific sectors, including transportation infrastructure, renewable energy, agriculture, environment, tourism, Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) support, intellectual property rights, and innovation and technology development.
Democracy: The SPC commended Georgia’s reform efforts and noted that additional reform efforts would further strengthen Georgia’s economy, democracy, and rule of law. Both sides discussed the importance of a fair, level, and competitive playing field for political parties and candidates before, during, and after the October 2016 parliamentary elections, and agreed on the importance of preserving an open, pluralistic, and independent media space. Both sides affirmed the importance of a strong and independent judiciary. The United States welcomed the steps Georgia has taken to increase checks and balances on the Prosecutor General’s Office and law enforcement and security services.
Defense and Security: Both sides highlighted Georgia’s progress towards fulfilling its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. The United States reaffirmed the commitment it made in Bucharest that Georgia will become a member of NATO, and expressed strong support for Georgia’s aspirations on this path. Both sides underscored Georgia’s intensive reforms and progress through the Annual National Program, the NATO-Georgia Commission, and implementation of the NATO-Georgia Substantial Package, which help Georgia advance in its preparations towards membership in the Alliance. Both sides praised progress in enhancing Georgia’s interoperability with NATO, including via the United States’ sponsorship of Georgia’s participation in the NATO Response Force. The sides also discussed the importance of enhancing the security of Georgia by increasing its defense capabilities, resilience, and deterrence. The U.S. side hailed U.S.-Georgia collaboration on strengthening Georgia’s borders against transnational organized crime, resulting in Georgia’s interdiction of the world’s largest-ever seized heroin shipment. Both sides noted the importance of continuing security sector reforms to protect the human rights of all of Georgia’s citizens.
The United States commended Georgia for its contributions to the ISAF and Resolute Support Missions in Afghanistan and commitment to UN Peacekeeping operations, and honored the shared sacrifice Georgian soldiers have made alongside American soldiers. The United States recognized Georgia’s care for its wounded warriors, and reiterated that the United States will continue to support such efforts, including the development of Georgia’s domestic care capacity.
People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges: The United States expressed support for the Georgian government’s efforts to expand outreach and services to the residents of the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. The Parties noted the value of people-to-people engagement through a wide range of activities to build relationships and advance reconciliation. Both sides highlighted the need to cooperate in monitoring and responding to increases in Russian-sponsored messaging and activity in Georgia. Both sides applauded the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s historic second compact and its contribution to supporting the Georgian workforce through strategic investments in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and vocational training. The SPC stressed the value of U.S.-sponsored student exchange programs and the importance of expanding cooperation between U.S. and Georgian universities. Both sides agreed to further deepen the partnership in health care, including by expanding collaborative projects in science, communicable and non-communicable diseases, as well as starting new initiatives.
The SPC concluded by underscoring the importance of the strong and vibrant partnership that exists between the United States and Georgia.