U.S. Ambassador Talks High Council of Justice, Georgia’s Regional Mediation

While speaking with journalists on 24 October at the Akhaltsikhe Zonal Diagnostic Lab, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan addressed the election of two new judge members to the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), Georgia’s role as a regional mediator, and Ukrainian Presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovich’s recent statements.

High Council of Justice

Asked about the recent election of Levan Murusidze and Dimitri Gvritishvili of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals to the HCoJ – which was met with criticism from the opposition and support from the Georgian Dream – Ambassador Degnan said, “that’s an assessment that the European Commission will make,” since the judicial reform was one of the 12 priorities posited by the Council of the EU.

Amb. Degnan underscored, however, that the judicial reform process must be “a broad and inclusive one”, involving civil society, opposition, and other stakeholders.

Bringing attention to her meetings with judges in regional courts across Georgia and the “dedicated professionals who are working very hard to administer the law,” U.S. Ambassador Degnan also expressed hope that “the judicial reform that is undertaken addresses some of the real challenges facing the courts here, which include very heavy workloads.”

“It is important to be sure that the citizens of Georgia receive the kind of judicial support and see their judiciary in action in a way that truly supports this democracy and the citizens in it,” she added.

On Georgia as a Regional Mediator

Asked about Georgia’s role as a regional mediator, U.S. Ambassador Degnan noted the importance of the leaders of the three South Caucasus countries coming together “to work on issues that are important for all three.”

“Georgia has often played that role of mediator,” she added, highlighting the country’s role in helping Armenia and Azerbaijan reach an agreement “on some very important steps following the conflict that resulted in the release of some detainees.”

The Ambassador also noted that “there are so many issues facing the region, whether it’s water or energy or the economy, where the three countries working together can really improve the situation for their people.”

In that context, she concluded that “it’s a very positive and encouraging sign to have President Aliyev here and to have Prime Minister Pashinyan when he and his officials come.” “Georgia is the place that brings people together, and I think that’s been true throughout Georgia’s history. We see it again now,” she said.

Arestovych’s Recent Statements

Amb. Degnan also responded to the controversy generated by the Ukrainian President’s advisor, Oleksiy Arestovich’s statement on 21 October, that Ukraine may “project force” into Georgia which, he claimed has a “pro-Russian government”. Amb. Degnan said she doesn’t want to speak on “behalf of Mr. Arestovych, a member of the Ukrainian government”, but pointed out that “anything that is dividing Georgia and Ukraine is only benefiting Russia.” She added, “this is really the time to come together.”

Bringing attention to the fact that both Georgia and Ukraine have been invaded and threatened by Russia, the U.S. Ambassador reiterated, “this is the time to come together and push back in whatever way possible to demonstrate that Georgia’s territorial integrity and Georgia’s sovereignty are safe and preserved.”

“The United States has long been and will continue to be, a steadfast supporter of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and that is what we want to see preserved here,” she concluded.

Reforms, EU

“From the United States point of view, we have very consistently and clearly supported Georgia’s aspirations for a European future,” Amb. Degnan said, arguing that it is the “clear desire and preference” of the Georgian people “to become part of the European Union, to become part of NATO”. Noting that Georgia now has “a real opportunity” to achieve the EU candidacy, she pointed out the need for “the leaders and the people to come together to make the reforms that are necessary to fulfill the 12 priorities.”

The Ambassador pointed out, that the ability to shape “a broad and inclusive process” around the fulfillment of the 12 priorities is “really the measure of Georgia’s readiness, and we all are watching to see if Georgia’s leaders can do what is necessary to achieve this goal.”

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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