Georgia welcomes U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s forthcoming visit to Georgia scheduled for 17 and 18 November
Georgia welcomes U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s forthcoming visit to Georgia scheduled for 17 and 18 November, the Georgian Foreign Ministry reports.
Within the framework of the visit, the Secretary of State will hold meetings with Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, President Salome Zourabichvili and Minister of Foreign Affairs David Zalkaliani. Mike Pompeo will also meet with Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II.
High-level meetings within the scope of the Secretary of State’s visit will focus on the priorities under the United States-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership, as well as on prospects for further enhancing cooperation in the areas of defence an security, trade and economy, democracy, people-to-people contacts, education and cultural exchanges.
The parties will discuss the security environment in Georgia and the wider region and will highlight cooperation between the countries as a way to further strengthen regional and international security. Talking points will also include the democratic and economic reforms taking place in Georgia.
The U.S. Secretary of State’s visit to Georgia once again points to the firmness of U.S.-Georgia strategic partnership and reaffirms the commitment of the two countries to enhance their cooperation aimed at further reinforcing the partnership based on shared values and vision. The visit provides yet another proof that the United States remains strongly committed to supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the country’s continuous democratic development and European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
David Zalkaliani has spoken over the phone with his Ukrainian counterpart
The Vice Prime Minister of Georgia/Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA), David Zalkaliani spoke over the phone with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, on 24 January 2022.
David Zalkaliani reaffirmed Georgia's unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and expressed his strong support for the country facing the difficult situation. The Georgian Foreign Minister also highlighted that Georgia and Ukraine are dealing with the same challenges caused by the occupation.
The sides exchanged information on the ongoing processes and the developments along the Ukrainian border. They also talked about communication with high level representatives of Ukraine and Georgia, in parallel to the western partners’ ongoing dialogue with Russia.
In this light, the sides positively assessed the international partners’ support and their unequivocal position that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine, as well as the sovereign right of the two countries to choose for themselves their own future and decide whether they will pursue or not European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations are the red lines, which will not be crossed in the negotiation process, and that there will be no decision about Georgia and Ukraine without Georgia and Ukraine.
During the telephone conversation, the sides highlighted the international platforms and close bilateral communication between Georgia and Ukraine. The ministers agreed to continue high-level contacts by exchanging information and sharing their positions on the ongoing processes.
David Zalkaliani has met with the Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas
Within the framework of his visit to the Republic of Lithuania, the Vice Prime Minister/Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Zalkaliani met with the Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas, Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen.
The meeting was attended by members of the Lithuanian Parliament - Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Laima Liucija Andrikienė and Chairman of the Friendship Group with Georgia, Raimundas Lopata. The sides underlined the successful and close cooperation between the two countries at the parliamentary level, including the strong mutual support on international parliamentary platforms.
The Speaker of the Seimas reiterated Lithuania’s strong support for the European choice and the territorial integrity of Georgia. The conversation focused on Georgia's success on the path to European integration and the results already achieved, namely, the Association Agreement and visa-free travel with the EU. Special note was taken of the importance of successfully continuing the reforms and planned or implemented under the Association Agreement, and Lithuania’s commitment to further support Georgia on this path.
The participants of the meeting exchanged views on the current geopolitical processes, the existing security environment and the recent development of events. Representatives of the Lithuanian Seimas reaffirmed that Georgia's European and Euro-Atlantic integration, sovereignty and territorial integrity remain among the Lithuanian parliament’s priorities.
The sides expressed their readiness to exchange high-level visits at the parliamentary level. The sides also reviewed the positive dynamics of bilateral relations between the two countries, including in areas such as tourism, trade and people-to-people contacts.
Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Myroslava Gongadze of Voice of America’s Ukrainian Service
Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Myroslava Gongadze of Voice of America’s Ukrainian Service
ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE
QUESTION: Today we have a chance to talk about the crisis with Secretary of State, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Thank you. Thank you for this opportunity and for your time —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s good to be with you.
QUESTION: — and for your effort.
So your administration said that Russia can invade any moment. What is your administration ready to do to defer Russian aggression? And what would be the three major steps you would – you are ready to do if Russia will invade tomorrow?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, we’ve offered Russia a clear choice, a choice between pursuing dialogue and diplomacy on the one hand, or confrontation and consequences on the other hand. And we’ve just been engaged in an extensive series of diplomatic engagements with Russia, directly between us, through the Strategic Stability Dialogue, at NATO with the NATO-Russia Council, at the OSCE, the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe. And my hope remains that Russia will pursue that diplomatic path. It’s clearly preferable.
QUESTION: Still, would U.S. —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: But – but to your point, we’ve also – we’ve equally made clear that if Russia chooses to renew its aggression against Ukraine, we – and not just we the United States, we many countries throughout Europe and even some beyond – will respond very forcefully and resolutely, and in three ways.
First, we’ve been working intensely on elaborating extensive sanctions: financial, economic, export controls, and others, and —
QUESTION: Does it include cutting from SWIFT —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: — doing that – I’m not going to get into the details of what they are, but we’re doing that in very close coordination with European allies and partners. A second consequence would almost certainly be further assistance, defensive military assistance, to Ukraine. And third, it’s almost certain that NATO would have to reinforce its own defenses on its on its eastern flank.
And you know, what’s so striking about this is that when you think about it, President Putin, going back to 2014, has managed to precipitate what he says he wants to prevent. Because among other things, NATO had to reinforce itself after Russia invaded Ukraine, seized Crimea, the Donbas – after that happened. So we’ve laid out the consequences clearly for Russia, but also the far preferable path of resolving differences diplomatically. And we’ll see which path President Putin decides to take.
QUESTION: Still, the question of is the SWIFT – cutting Russia from SWIFT is on the table, and personal sanctions against personally Putin and his family are on the table.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: What I can tell you is this, and it’s not just me saying this – the G7, the leading democratic economies in the world, the European Union, NATO have all each declared as institutions, as a collection of countries that there will be, and I quote, “massive consequences” for Russia if it renews its aggression against Ukraine. We’ve also said that the measures that we’re looking at go well beyond steps that we’ve taken in the past, including in 2014. I’m not going to detail them here or telegraph the steps we take, but I can tell you the consequences would be severe. But again, I want to insist on the fact that it would be far preferable not to have to go down that path. We’re fully prepared to do it, but the preference is to see if we can resolve differences, address concerns in both directions through diplomacy.
QUESTION: Russia ask for a written response to demand never to accept Ukraine into NATO. Are you preparing to – are you preparing such a written response, and what kind?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So we had the last week of these important engagements, as I noted, and we now have an opportunity, both Russia and all of us – the United States, our European partners – to take back what we heard from each other. The Russians have gone back and presumably are consulting with President Putin. We’ve done the same in my case with President Biden. The Europeans have done the same with their leaders. And the next step in this process is for me to have a chance to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva on Friday and to see what – how Russia has responded to what’s already been discussed. They’ll hear from us.
Before that, though, I was determined, at President Biden’s instruction, to come here to Kyiv to consult with our Ukrainian partners, and then tomorrow in Berlin to meet with some of our closest European partners. That’s exactly how we’ve proceeded all along. We’ve done everything in very close consultation before and after any of our engagements with Russia.
QUESTION: However, you didn’t answer my question about are you preparing the written response to Russian demand.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Right now, the next step is to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov. Let’s see where we are after Friday, and we’ll take it from there.
QUESTION: I had that question about Mr. Lavrov. You are scheduled to meet him. Do you see any signs that the Kremlin is changing its position at this point – moment?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I can’t see that I see any direct evidence of that. Unfortunately, we can – we continue to see Russia having amassed very significant forces on Ukraine’s borders. That process seems to continue. On the other hand, the fact that we are meeting in Geneva, the fact that we will be discussing the conversations and exchanges that we’ve had over the last 10 days also suggests to me that diplomacy remains an open possibility, one that we’re determined to pursue as long and far as we can. We want to leave no diplomatic stone unturned, because again, that’s just a much better and more responsible way to deal with these problems.
QUESTION: The Minsk Agreement is seen as the only valuable solution for this crisis. However, Russia and Ukraine has a different reading of the agreement. What has to be done to implement the agreement, or it’s time to renegotiate its norms?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I don’t think there’s any need to renegotiate because, as you say, there is an agreement. In fact, there are actually three of them because Minsk evolved 2014 to 2015, and there are a number of very clear steps that both of the parties have to take. I think it’s fair to say looking back that many of those steps Ukraine has either implemented or begun to implement. There are some that it hasn’t yet tackled. I think unfortunately, it’s equally fair to say that Russia has done virtually nothing in terms of the steps required of it in the Minsk Agreement.
So the first question is whether Russia is serious about resolving the Donbas through the Minsk process. If it is, I agree with you. I think that’s the best and right now really the only way forward. France, Germany are an important part of this through the so-called Normandy Format, and there are supposed to be upcoming meetings in that process. And again, it’s a test of whether Russia is serious about it. The one positive sign that we’ve seen in the last few weeks when it comes to Minsk is a loose ceasefire that is clearly an improvement over where things were that takes us back to where we were in 2020.
But the real question is: Is Russia serious about implementing Minsk? If it is, we are prepared to facilitate that, we’re prepared to support that, we’re prepared to engage in that, but in support of this Normandy process that France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine are engaged in.
QUESTION: Since you mentioned Germany, you mentioned Normandy Format, there was a lot of talks about U.S. joining that Normandy Format. Is there any reconsideration of U.S. doing so?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I don’t think it’s a question of us joining the format. The question is whether it’s useful for us to try to facilitate things, to support it in any way that we can. If the answer to that is yes, we’re fully prepared to do that, and we’ve said – of course, share that with our allies and partners France and Germany, but we’ve also said that to Russia, and of course, to Ukraine.
QUESTION: The U.S. National Security Advisor recently said that if Russia wants Nord Stream to start operating, it will have to stop aggression in Ukraine. Is the United States ready to accept the completion and activation of the pipeline for Russia to withdraw troops from the borders?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we continue to oppose the pipeline for reasons that are well known and are long known. We think that it actually undermines Europe’s energy security. It obviously does tremendous potential damage to Ukraine including giving Russia the option to avoid the existing pipeline through Ukraine that results in a lot of transit fees for Ukraine, and the list goes on.
Having said that, the pipeline is actually complete. The construction has been completed. It’s not operational. And to Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor’s point, right now, that pipeline is as much if not more leverage for us as it is for Russia, because the idea that if Russia commits renewed aggression against Ukraine, gas would flow through that pipeline, is highly, highly improbable. So that’s an interesting factor to see whether it affects Russia’s thinking as it’s deciding what to do.
QUESTION: And I have two questions on the domestic agenda – Ukraine domestic agenda, if I may. The President Zelenskyy promised President Biden personally to fight corruption. He promised to appoint a special anticorruption prosecutor before the end of 2021. However, many Ukrainians argue that there is sabotage of anticorruption reforms. Is the United States, as a Ukraine strategic partner, satisfied with the reform progress in Ukraine? And is Ukraine at risk of losing the U.S. support if the government does not meet its commitment to reform agenda?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I had a chance to spend time with President Zelenskyy today. We had a very good conversation about virtually all of these issues, including the question of reform. And President Zelenskyy has been pursuing reform, including most recently judicial reform. But there are other things that need to happen, including finally the appointment of this commissioner that should and could take place anytime, so we are looking to that to see that happen. It’s challenging. There are external pressures, there are internal pressures, but he has been on the path of reform.
And ultimately, Ukraine’s progress, which we are determined to support, is contingent on reform. So we look to the president to continue that – those efforts. We very much support him in those efforts and we’ll continue to support Ukraine as it makes those efforts.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. They are showing me that I have to cut. I have one more question, though. One more, please, one more question.
Across from this building where we are going – doing this interview today, right, on the hearing – in the court hearing on treason charges brought against the former President Poroshenko, many experts and former (inaudible) politicians expressed their concern, and some say the charges are politically motivated. Do you think these charges and the progress of – and the process is justified at the time of looming war?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I can’t get into the details of this particular case. What I can say is this: It’s very important that in any proceeding, whether it’s this one or any other, that things go forward, it’s through an independent judiciary pursuant to the rule of law, and, as we would say, without fear or favor, no selective prosecutions. That’s a general rule that we would apply anywhere and everywhere.
Second, this is a time I think where there’s a premium on national unity precisely because of the threat that Russia is posing. And it’s important for Ukrainians to come together whatever political differences they may have. One of Russia’s methods is to try to divide, to create divisions, to create distractions, and it’s important for Ukrainians to come together to resist that and to deal with the challenge posed by Russia as one – as one country with an incredible future that the United States strongly supports, but one that’s being challenged.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, because I would be escorted from this room. Thank you so much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Laughter.) Thank you. Good to be with you again.
QUESTION: Good to be here.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Thanks very much.
US Embassy in Georgia
Washington will continue to coordinate closely with Tbilisi within the scope of the ongoing security dialogue with Russia
On 14 January 2022, the Vice Prime Minister/ Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Zalkaliani spoke over the phone with the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Karen Donfried. The sides exchanged views and information over the security situation in the region and the bilateral U.S.-Russia dialogue, as well as over the meetings held during the past week within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council and the OSCE.
The Foreign Minister thanked the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for active communication and coordination with Georgia against the background of the ongoing processes. This points again to the firmness of U.S.-Georgia strategic partnership and to the importance of cooperation between the two countries. David Zalkaliani expressed his gratitude for the U.S. messages of support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as for NATO’s Open Door Policy in the face of Russia’s aggressive rhetoric and activities.
The sides highlighted the sovereign right of the States to decide independently on their own foreign policy and their security partners. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State expressed her support for Georgia. The sides reaffirmed that the strategic partners should continue close coordination with Georgia during discussions on Georgia. According to them, no discussion on Georgia will take place without Georgia. It was highlighted that the Russian Federation’s attempts to legitimize Russia’s exclusive spheres of influence in Europe, and to obstruct Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration are inadmissible. The sides underscored the need for Russia to comply with the obligations under the 2008 Ceasefire Agreement.
The sides agreed to continue consultations in the future. Within the scope of consultations with NATO allies and partners, on 5 January, David Zalkaliani spoke over the phone with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman.
David Zalkaliani has spoken over the phone with the NATO Deputy Secretary General, Mircea GeoanăOn 10 January, the Vice Prime Minister/Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Zalkaliani spoke over the phone with the NATO Deputy Secretary General, Mircea Geoană.
The conversation focused on the ongoing European security talks between Russia and NATO allies.
According to the NATO Deputy Secretary General, the Russian Federation’s proposals regarding the so-called "security guarantees" contain provisions that contradict the fundamental principles and values of NATO and any attempt of the third country to interfere in the foreign and security policy of the sovereign states is inadmissible.
The Deputy Secretary General reaffirmed the Alliance's unwavering support for the decision made at the Bucharest Summit that Georgia will become a member of NATO.
The sides agreed to continue active consultations through diplomatic channels and to coordinate their positions on the abovesaid issues.