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The United States must strengthen its presence in the South Caucasus. This was stated by Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia at a meeting in Tbilisi with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“This is a very good opportunity for us to discuss important issues in order to deepen cooperation between Georgia and the United States on defense and security, economy and democratic consolidation. I want to assure you that we really feel that the moment has come to strengthen our cooperation and partnership, as well as to strengthen the presence of the United States in the region, ”Gakharia said on November 18.
The Georgian prime minister did not specify what exactly he meant when he spoke about the strengthening of the American presence in the region. It is pertinent to recall that on the eve of Pompeo’s visit, the Georgian expert community addressed him with an open letter, which contained a request to station American armed forces in Georgia on a permanent basis, taking into account the security threat posed by Russia. As experts write in an open letter, this is especially relevant at this stage, since as a result of the recent deployment of Russian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian military positions have strengthened in the South Caucasus and, accordingly, the influence of this country in the region has increased..
Mike Pompeo, who is on a two-day visit to Georgia, in turn, reaffirmed support from the United States..
“We support you in democracy and work together on the pain and hardships of the occupation of your country. We will do everything in the future to support the democratization process in your country, to strengthen institutions, which is important for free and fair elections, and everything that is the result of a healthy democratic discussion, ”said the Secretary of State.
After the meeting, Gakharia tweeted that it was productive and that issues of Russian occupation, regional geopolitics, Black Sea security, trade and investment were discussed..
“The United States is Georgia’s main strategic partner in strengthening democracy and the rule of law. Relations between the United States and Georgia have never been more dynamic, and they will continue to flourish in the future, ”the Georgian prime minister writes..
On the agenda of the visit
During the visit, the Secretary of State held meetings with President of the country Salome Zurabishvili and Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II. Pompeo also met with representatives of the non-governmental sector. According to the US Embassy in Georgia, the meeting focused on “judicial reform and the role of civil society in the development of Georgia.”.
“The Secretary of State noted Georgia’s recent efforts to reform the judicial system and the important role of civil society in promoting the rule of law and developing modern state institutions. However, everyone agreed that there is still a lot of work to be done and the United States is ready to continue its support, ”the US Embassy in Georgia said in a statement..
Georgian opposition and State Department statement
The program of the visit did not include Mike Pompeo’s meeting with the Georgian opposition, whose representatives held a “silent action” on the streets of Tbilisi on November 18 to draw the attention of the Secretary of State to their demands for a second round of elections. Recall that the Georgian opposition is in the regime of boycotting the second round of parliamentary elections, scheduled for November 21, as it accuses the authorities of falsifying the voting results in the first round..
At the same time, after Pompeo left Georgia for Israel in the afternoon on November 18, his deputy for Europe and Eurasia Philip Riker stayed in the country to meet with representatives of the Georgian opposition..
The US recognized the legitimacy of the October 31 Georgian parliamentary elections, claiming they were competitive. At the same time, Washington noted that violations recorded during the voting should be studied and resolved..
On November 18, after Mike Pompeo left Tbilisi, the State Department released a transcript of a press briefing with the participation of officials from the US State Department. Discussing the attitude of the Georgian opposition to the elections, American diplomats say that the errors that took place during and before the voting on October 31, in general, are characteristic of the Georgian elections over the past thirty years. At the same time, the State Department believes that in order to reveal the seriousness of the violations, the opposition should achieve this not by boycotting, but by appealing the violations in court. At the same time, State Department officials note that despite the low level of trust in Georgia in judicial decisions, the opposition should continue to fight within the walls of parliament..
“We support the opposition’s struggle for change within parliament, not through a boycott. We encourage them to fight for change from within. You were elected by your supporters to enter parliament and bring about change … We call on the opposition to enter parliament, make significant changes to the electoral process in order to make the next elections better and avoid a repetition of the same violations, ”the State Department said.
Georgian opposition insists that it does not intend to change its position and is not going to end the boycott of the new parliament.
Recall that after counting 100% of the votes, the Georgian CEC announced that according to the proportional lists, the ruling Georgian Dream gained 48.15%, and the main opposition force, the United National Movement – Strength in Unity, received 27.14%. They are followed by seven parties with three percent or less, including the pro-Russian Alliance of Patriots.
Another 30 deputies to the Georgian parliament are elected by majority lists. After counting the votes, the CEC announced that candidates from the ruling party had won in fourteen single-mandate constituencies, and a second round would be required in sixteen, since none of the candidates could overcome the fifty percent barrier. If the opposition does not change its decision and announces a boycott of the second round, candidates from the ruling party will automatically win in single-mandate constituencies, and accordingly, Georgian Dream will receive 91 seats in the new parliament. This is enough for the parliament of the new convocation to convene, and the deputies recognize its powers..