State Department Officials Brief Media After Secretary Pompeo’s Visit

The U.S. State Department released the contents of a November 18 briefing to press accompanying State Secretary Mike Pompeo in Tbilisi, discussing, among others, Georgia’s post-election political impasse, state of its judiciary, as well as U.S.-Georgia partnership.

At the briefing, a Senior Official One, presumably Ambassador Kelly Degnan, noted that the U.S. is encouraging the opposition, that announced a boycott to the next parliament, to “fight for change” within the legislative body.

“These were competitive elections, better in some ways – less hate speech, less of some of the more aggressive tactics before the elections, but… they too observed violations like the vote buying and the voter intimidation that unfortunately have plagued Georgia’s elections for 30 years,” Senior Official One noted. 

Clarifying the reasons behind Secretary Pompeo’s meeting with the civil society to discuss judicial reforms, the Senior Official One stated that “fundamentally, if there were a truly independent judiciary here, those electoral claims that were made could have been resolved in a court and people would have had confidence in the outcome.”

“Unfortunately… many people in Georgia don’t have a lot of confidence in the judicial system, in the Central Election Commission,” the Senior Official One remarked, adding that “recounts, things like that were not handled as – let’s say as transparently as they should have been by the Central Election Commission, which added to the sense of suspicion about to whether the results were credible or not.”

The Second Senior Official, on the other hand,  said: “We’re here to demonstrate our longstanding support for Georgia, its sovereignty, its independence, its future, its potential, and the strong U.S.-Georgia partnership, which has been enduring through many different governments, different parties, and different U.S. administrations.”

“[Georgians] have been a great partner in terms of security, militarily, and so what the Secretary wants to underscore is support for Georgia’s sovereignty,” noted the Official Number Two.

“The Secretary wants to underscore support, stick with it with the institutions that you’ve created, exactly as my colleague has said – make them more perfect over time, and that’s the real message here,” the Senior State Department Official Two alluded to opposition’s refusal to enter the new Parliament and added: “use the institutions. Don’t just boycott them and achieve your gains that way.” 

“And then also see businesspeople, because part of the message here too is to increase confidence and create a business environment that attracts foreign investment vitally needed in a part of the world with great potential for trade, for investment, but also a tough neighborhood,” remarked the Official Number Two

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