“The United States supports Georgia steadfastly in its path to NATO and the European Union,” Wess Mitchell, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, who is on the first visit to Georgia as part of his diplomatic tour in Europe, said at the NATO-Georgia Public Diplomacy Forum in Tbilisi today.
Addressing the participants of the forum, Wess Mitchell reiterated that the U.S. “stands with Georgia” as its friend and strategic partner, and that NATO’s door remained open to all European democracies that uphold the values of the alliance and contribute to the “common security.”
“No one but Georgia can choose Georgia’s future. No third country has a veto on Georgia’s NATO membership. Upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of independent states is in your interest, it’s in Europe’s interests, and it’s in America’s interests,” Mitchell said calling Georgia “a powerful symbol of freedom.”
The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State further underscored that the alliance, as well as President Donald Trump remained committed to the 2008 Bucharest Summit Declaration that “Georgia will become the member of NATO.” He stressed, that President Trump “urges allies to uphold the commitment they made at that time.”
In his address, Wess Mitchell also said that Georgia was positioned at “a strategic and civilizational frontier,” and has established its democratic credentials as a leader in this region. He further noted that the alliance depended upon “strong resilient partners like Georgia” to safeguard the common security around the world.
While commending the Georgian government’s efforts to reform and strengthen the country, Mitchell said “we urge the government not only to pass reforms but implement them” singling out specifically the areas of strengthening judicial independence and accountability.
Conflicts in focus
Reiterating support to Georgia’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, Mitchell called on Moscow to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions, to drop its recognition of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia as independent states and to provide free access, and free humanitarian assistance to those regions.
“Ten years ago Russia invaded Georgia. United States unequivocally condemns Russia’s occupation of Georgian soil. The Russian occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are Georgia,” Wess Mitchell stated.
He said “only through continued outreach and communication will Georgia strengthen people-to-people ties”, commending the Georgian government’s efforts “to find a way forward” through its recent peace initiative.
The NATO-Georgia Public Diplomacy Forum is a two-day event, organized by Georgia’s Information Center on NATO and the EU, in cooperation with the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is supported by the NATO Public Diplomacy Division, the NATO Liaison Office in Georgia and the Embassy of Bulgaria.
The forum is held in framework of the annual NATO Days. With events held at various locations between April 16 and May 1, the government aims to engage Georgians in the discussions about the NATO integration and its benefits.
Mitchell was visiting Georgia on April 29-30 and met separately with President Giorgi Margvelashvili, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, and Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze to discuss deepening of the bilateral cooperation.