USS Mount Whitney Reception (October 16)
The USS Mount Whitney’s fourth visit to Batumi concluded on Friday night with an on-board reception for U.S. and Georgian officials, including Prime Minister Kvirikashvili and Ambassador Ian Kelly. Ambassador Kelly reminded the audience that the USS Mount Whitney was one of the first ships to arrive in Georgia and provide assistance after the 2008 war, noting “The USS Mount Whitney will always have a special connection with Georgia and I believe Georgians have a special place in their hearts for the Mount Whitney.”
Press Stand up on the sidelines of the USS Mount Whitney Reception
Ambassador Kelly: I am very happy to be here with Rear Admiral Caudle and Caption Sardiello, Commanding Officer of the USS Mount Whitney. I think the Mount Whitney has a special resonance for Georgians because it was the first ship to come to Georgia with very needed assistance after the war with Russia in 2008. I think the NATO Summit showed that the alliance and its partners are giving a lot more attention to the Black Sea, and Georgia, of course, is a very important partner with us in Afghanistan but it is taking on an increasing importance here for Black Sea security and stability.
Q-n about Georgia’s role in the Black Sea security – the Warsaw Summit
Ambassador Kelly: I think much of our bilateral security relationship is based on ensuring that we can be interoperable with Georgia. I think most of that assistance has been for its forces. But we are paying, I think, even more attention to coastal defense and that is why a few weeks ago we had a ceremony to transfer a coupe of U.S. Coast guard cutters to Georgia.
Q-n about the October 8 elections in Georgia, the U.S. Embassy’s assessment; as the opposition still claims there were some violations during the elections
Ambassador Kelly: I think the bottom line for us is that the elections reflected the will of the Georgian people. We are concerned about reports of violations, particularly reports of violence and intimidation—we absolutely condemn such incidents of violence. We think it is totally unacceptable in a democracy, especially on Election Day, to have that kind of violence. And, of course, we think it is incumbent upon the government to thoroughly investigate all these reports of intimidation and violence. But, again, our bottom line is that we think the election reflected the will of the Georgian people.
Q-n to specify the intimidations – Marneuli or more?
Ambassador Kelly: I think Marneuli obviously was one of the most concerning of all the incidents because there was violence and there was a policeman severely injured. And I just think that these incidents need to be completely investigated. We have another round of elections coming up in a few weeks, and elections cannot be conducted in an atmosphere of intimidation and violence. So, we very much hope that the government will investigate these incidents in a fair and balanced way.
Q-n to Rear Admiral Caudle about the ship visit and the joint search and rescue exercises held in the morning
Rear Admiral Daryl L. Caudle: I will say in general that the relationship between the United States and the Georgian Coast Guard is very strong. And we work together to improve our ability to communicate and to operate together in the Black Sea. I am going to let the Captain talk about the specifics about how well the Georgian Coast Guard did today.
Caption Carlos Sardiello: The opportunity today to increase our interoperability and cooperation was very well performed. The Georgian Coast Guard did fantastic during the search and rescue training that we conducted today in port. And over the past few days we have spent time studying and doing some more broad maritime cooperation training, so that in the future we can increase more opportunities to work together.