U.S. Ambassador-Designate Speaks of Priorities in Georgia

John Tefft, who has been recently nominated by President Bush as the U.S. new Ambassador to Georgia, outlined the U.S. priorities in relations with Georgia at the hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 24. In his statement, Tefft stressed that strengthening of democratic institutions, integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, moralization of ties with Russia and resolution of conflicts peacefully should be Georgia’s top priorities.

John Tefft, a native of Virginia, who currently occupies position of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, is a 33-year veteran of the Foreign Service and has served in Jerusalem, Hungary, Italy, Russia and Lithuania. In Georgia Ambassador Tefft will replace Richard Miles, whose term of service has already expired.

“I will try to fill the shoes of one of our most capable diplomats in the Foreign Service, Dick Miles. I followed him as Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow many years ago, and I’m honored to be following him again in this new important assignment,” John Tefft said, while addressing the U.S. Senate Committee.

He said that Georgia, which is “the forefront of the U.S. President’s democracy agenda,” is a tremendous success story but much remains to be done to ensure that “the promises of the Rose Revolution are met.”

“First, Georgia must continue its commitment to build the institutions of democracy and ensure the rule of law. That is job number one in terms of making the Rose Revolution irreversible,” the U.S. Ambassador-designate said.

He said that it is vital to help Georgia, which is an important U.S. ally in the war on terror and in Operation Iraqi Freedom, in its NATO and EU aspiration.

John Tefft said that if confirmed as Ambassador in Tbilisi, he will help Georgia to find ways to move beyond “the problems of the past,” referring to Tbilisi’s strained relations with Russia and also to presence of Russian military bases in Georgia.

“I believe it is essential for Georgia and Russia to establish a new, constructive relationship based on respect, shared economic interests and mutual security,” Tefft said.

“Georgia and Russia now have an opportunity to find a way forward on removing Russian bases from Georgian territory. I will do what I can to encourage both sides to make that possibility a reality,” he added.

Then Ambassador-designate spoke about the Georgia’s secessionist conflicts and said that for a success Georgia must “ultimately have control of its territory to ensure the security.”

“President Bush delivered a clear message in Tbilisi [on May 10] that now is the time for resolution of the separatist conflicts in Georgia.”

“A peaceful solution is the only answer to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but the status quo should not remain,” Tefft stated.

He also said that inclusion of Georgia into Millennium Challenge Account aid project is yet another sign of the U.S. “trust in Georgia’s potential.”

“The United States has invested heavily in Georgia since 1991 – and it is essential today that we remain supportive of Georgia’s progress now in order to consolidate its democratic efforts. I am hopeful that a Millennium Challenge Account compact will soon be concluded, with an aim toward reducing poverty and improving the economy,” Tefft said.

Officials in Tbilisi say that they expect USD 120-125 million assistance from the U.S. in frames of Millennium Challenge Account.

If confirmed, John Tefft will service most of his term in Georgia in the new U.S. Embassy complex, which is currently under construction on a 20-acre site in the suburb of Tbilisi. Construction, which costs USD 114 million, is expected to be over in 2006.


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