U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, along with two other Senators, Lindsey Graham (Republican – South Carolina) and Amy Klobuchar (Democrat - Minnesota), visited Georgia on January 1-2 to hold talks with the country’s leadership and to also meet theopposition.
The delegation visited the village of Khurvaleti, which has been divided by the Russian troops that ran a barbed wire fence in the middle of the village, marking the administrative boundary line with breakaway South Ossetia.
“[We] are very happy to be back in Georgia, a strong friend and an ally. These are very difficult and challenging times … We will continue to do everything we can to support the total independence and freedom, and territorial integrity of the country of Georgia,” Senator McCain said before heading to Khurvaleti.
“We hope to make 2017 the year of offense. We believe that Putin has hacked into our elections in America, that he is trying to undermine democracy all over the world, and it is time for new sanctions to hit him hard as an individual, his energy sector, his banking sector. It is time to push back against Putin, but be a better friend to our allies over here including Georgia—to be more helpful,” Lindsey Graham said.
Senator Graham added that the three lawmakers would brief their colleagues on Russia’s actions in the Baltics, Ukraine and Georgia.
Prime Minister Kvirikashvili, who met the senators returning from the administrative boundary line along with some of his cabinet members, stated that “[Georgia has] always been, and will always be, the most reliable partner of the US in the region.”
“The parties discussed a broad variety of issues pertaining to Georgia-US relations. Kvirikashvili emphasized the importance of strategic partnership with the United States. According to him, America is Georgia’s steadfast supporter, and the Georgian Government is committed to continuing its cooperation with the new US Administration,” Prime Minister’s office reported.
“I would like to thank you for contributing the most precious time of the New Year to supporting Georgia at a very critical moment. We think that this is a time to support Georgia, to continue its aspirations toward Europe and NATO, and generally to become a truly democratic European country,” Kvirikashvili told the Senators during their visit at the Tech Park in Tbilisi later on January 1.
On January 2, U.S. Senators met with President Giorgi Margvelashvili and the leaders of the United National Movement, and visited the NATO-Georgian Joint Training and Evaluation Centre.
“Today, in the transitional period, when the new U.S. administration is due to enter the office, such a visit and highlighting that Georgia is a strategic partner, that is a very worthy and important [partner] for the United States, is extremely important,” President Margvelashvili’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Tengiz Pkhaladze stated.
Senator McCain stated after the meeting with UNM’s Davit Bakradze, Giga Bokeria and Sergi Kapanadze: “We always express support for vigorous political climate, with viable opposition and media freedom, but we are also committed to the freedom and independence of Georgia, we support free trade agreements with Georgia, we support training and eventual inclusion of Georgia into NATO.”
“The visit is a very important signal at this point in time. There is a very risky international environment for everyone and particularly for Georgia. There is a new administration in the U.S. and their policies are not clear yet. So the visit of our friends … is a very important signal,” Bokeria noted after the meeting.
The visit is part of the senators’ Eastern European tour. The senators visited Georgia following a trip to Ukraine and the Baltic states.