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U.S. State Secretary Pompeo Visits Georgia

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in the evening of November 17 in Tbilisi, where he will meet President Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani, as well as civil society representatives and Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II in the first half of Wednesday.

Secretary Pompeo arrived to Tbilisi from Istanbul and will depart in the afternoon of November 18 for Tel Aviv. Top U.S. diplomat visits Georgia as part of his seven nation trip to U.S. allies, including France, Turkey, Georgia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

“The United States and Georgia have a strong relationship built upon our shared commitment to freedom and independence,” he wrote on Twitter after his arrival, adding that the U.S. is “committed to helping Georgia deepen its Euro-Atlantic ties and strengthen its democratic institutions.”

Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani welcomed the Secretary of State at the Tbilisi Airport.

Highlighting that Georgia “is the closest U.S. ally in the region,” Foreign Minister Zalkaliani said in the airport shortly before the arrival of his American colleague that Secretary Pompeo’s visit is of “utmost importance,” considering recent regional developments. “We worked on the visit for a long time, and it is very good that it coincided with this period,” he added.

The trip comes as incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as Secretary Pompeo refuse to acknowledge Joe Biden won the U.S. presidential election. “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” U.S. Secretary told media shortly after announcing his trip the last week. The leaders of all said seven countries, including Georgian President and Prime Minister, have congratulated Joe Biden on winning the U.S. presidential election.

Georgia itself faces a similar political crisis following the October 31 parliamentary elections, as all of the major opposition parties are rejecting the election outcome and refuse to enter the new parliament unless ruling Georgian Dream party yields their demands of snap elections, dismissal of the Central Election Commission chair and the release of “political prisoners.”

The Georgian opposition parties are planning to organize silent protests on Wednesday morning in downtown Tbilisi amid State Secretary Pompeo’s visit to deliver their message that “October 31 parliamentary election were rigged.” As things stand, U.S. Secretary’s visit agenda does not include the meetings with the Georgian opposition leaders.

In the afternoon of November 18, following meetings with state officials, Secretary Pompeo will however host a roundtable with the representatives of Georgian civil society to hear their views on rule of law and judicial independence, as well as on economic and human rights.

Secretary Pompeo is the first high ranking U.S. official to arrive to Tbilisi since Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Georgian capital in July-August, 2017.

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