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Secretary Pompeo Meets Civil Society, Concludes Georgia Visit

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded his Georgian visit in the afternoon of November 18 by discussing judicial reforms and the civil society’s role in Georgia’s development with CSO representatives.

During the meeting, the Secretary Pompeo “noted Georgia’s recent judicial reform efforts and the important role of civil society in advancing the rule of law and developing modern state institutions,” according to the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi.

“America’s private investment depends on a stable, independent judicial system. There’s more work to do,” State Secretary tweeted.

CSO Remarks After Meeting

Transparency International (TI) Georgia, Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI), Economic Policy and Research Center (EPRC), Rights Georgia and Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF), as well as American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, largest international business chamber in the country, attended the meeting.

Nino Evgenidze, EPRC Head, said the CSOs asserted that “informal governance” poses a threat to Georgia’s democratic development.

Kakha Tsikarishvili of Rights Georgia noted that the U.S. Embassy and the State Department are well informed on the issues of judicial independence and the rule of law in Georgia. “We presented specific cases when the Court made certain political and corrupted decisions,” he added.

“We discussed certain cases… the cartographers’ case, the Anaklia Port case, the Philip Morris case… every notorious case connected to the Georgian judiciary,” highlighted on his part TI Georgia’s Gia Gvilava. He added that Secretary Pompeo also asked the civil society representatives about the so-called “clan rule” of the Georgian judicial system, as to what “specific methods they work with.”

GDI’s Gvantsa Tsulukidze also highlighted the civil society representatives brought up “politically motivated” cases to the U.S. State Secretary, including the cartographers’ case, Giorgi Rurua’s case and others.

Sophio Asatiani of the OSGF said: “We offered the [U.S.] Embassy to take on the role of an active facilitator” on dealing with the political impasse in Georgia, “so that any other decisions are based on [political] consensus.” Speaking of how the U.S. should help Georgia with the judicial reform, Asatiani suggested that making U.S. financial aid conditional on the state of judiciary could serve as one of the options.

Meetings with Georgian Leaders, Orthodox Patriarch

Secretary Pompeo earlier in the morning met with senior Georgian officials, including President Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Gakharia, and Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani, as well as Orthodox Church leader Ilia II.

“U.S. cooperation with Georgia is of paramount importance, and our support for Georgia’s sovereignty in the face of Russian occupation is unwavering,” Secretary Pompeo said after meeting with Georgian President.

Speaking of meeting with PM Giorgi Gakharia and Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani, Secretary of State tweeted they discussed “the importance of holding free, fair, and transparent elections in Georgia.”

Georgian Foreign Minister said after the talks that that the discussion concerned prospects for increased U.S. presence in Georgia. He expressed hopes that the meeting will yield “significant, tangible results,” including with respect to the increased U.S. engagement in the region.

According to FM Zalkaliani, the parties also discussed deepened strategic partnership between two nations in the face of current security challenges, U.S. support for Georgia’s NATO aspirations,  state of the economy and foreign investments, cooperation over handling COVID-19 pandemic, including the acquisition of vaccines, and the occupied territories of Georgia.

As for the ongoing political impasse created after october 31 parliamentary elections, Minister Zalkaliani noted that “the United States of America is interested in the stability in the country, that processes… do not exceed legal frameworks under any circumstances.”

Opposition’s ‘Silent Demonstration’

Parallel to the official meetings, opposition that did not make it to State Secretary’s agenda, held “a silent rally” in downtown Tbilisi, intending to deliver their message to high-ranking U.S. official that Georgian Dream government “rigged” the parliamentary elections.

“Today we had a silent, but, at the same time, the loudest rally,” United National Movement’s Zaal Udumashvili addressed the protesters. He said that through their silence, they showed the whole world the critical state Georgia currently lives in. 

Zurab Japaraidze, leader of the right-libertarian Girchi party, said the opposition rally in the first place welcomed the visit of State Secretary of the major strategic partner. Secondly, Japaridze noted, the rally intended to show that situation in Georgia “is not ordinary” as parliamentary elections “was rigged by the authorities, at least to an extent that the runoffs lost their purpose.”

24 opposition parties also released a joint address to the Secretary of the State on the same day, expressing concern over the country’s “democratic backsliding,” and stressing the importance of advancing U.S-Georgia cooperation.

From Tbilisi Secretary Pompeo departed to Israel in the afternoon. “The Secretary expressed confidence that the U.S.-Georgian relationship is firmly grounded by our shared values and unwavering commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” the U.S. Embassy stated in a concluding message.

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