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U.S. Ambassador Urges the Government to Reverse Course Promptly to Rebuild Relations

U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Robin Dunnigan gave a wide-ranging interview to the news agency IPN. She spoke about the deterioration of relations with Georgia due to Tbilisi’s “extremely concerning steps” and urged the Georgian authorities to change course promptly to avoid further sanctions. She also spoke about the dangers of awarding the Anaklia Deep Sea Port construction project to a Chinese state-affiliated company.

Government actions “extremely concerning” – sanctions follow

At the outset, the U.S. Ambassador spoke about “the 32-year partnership” between the two countries, which has been beneficial to both sides, but said that when she arrived in Georgia, she knew of “some challenges” that already existed in the relationship.

Amb. Dunnigan welcomed the European Union’s “excellent decision” to grant Georgia the candidacy but said, “Over the last several months, the government has taken some actions that are extremely concerning.” She particularly noted the mounting anti-Western rhetoric, the passage of the foreign agents law, which runs counter to the “stated aspirations of the Georgian people,” and “a campaign of intimidation and violence” against government critics.

She explained that these actions have led the U.S. to impose visa restrictions on those individuals and their family members who are “complicit in undermining democracy, spreading disinformation, and violence against citizens in Georgia.” Amb. Dunnigan confirmed that the sanctioned individuals have already been notified that their U.S. visas are no longer valid, and those who did not have visas are no longer eligible. Referring to the U.S. Secretary of State’s statement, Amb. Dunnigan warned that further consequences from the U.S. are likely to be imposed but stressed, that these are not inevitable if the “government reverse course.”

The ambassador stressed, “The consequences that we’ve imposed are a tool to try to change behavior, not to punish the Georgian people.”

She listed a number of areas in which the U.S. provides assistance to Georgia, noting that Secretary Blinken’s statement about reviewing U.S.-Georgia relations “puts all of that assistance at risk” not because this is a preference of the United States but because “it is very difficult to continue a strong partnership in all these areas if the government considers us an adversary.” The ambassador pointed out that “some of the statements by some members of the [ruling] party and government have characterized us and the EU as adversaries.”

Repealing the foreign agents’ law is “exceptionally important” but not sufficient to restore relations

When asked how the hypothetical repeal of the law could improve relations, Amb. Dunnigan said a repeal would be an “exceptionally important step in improving our relationship” and help “get to a place where we can stop any negative consequences.” The ambassador noted that the repeal of this repressive law was not sufficient for normalizing the relations fully and said the Georgian leadership should also cease spreading disinformation and anti-Western rhetoric, as well as violence against peaceful assemblies and individual protesters. She advised the government not to wait for the elections to take these steps.

Anaklia Port Project Under Highly Controversial Chinese Company

Amb. Dunnigan spoke about the Georgian government awarding the Anaklia Deep Sea Port construction project to a Chinese company, CCCC. The Ambassador pointed out that the company is owned by the Chinese Communist Party, “the number one financier of the Russian military today.” She said the U.S. Treasury considers it “deep ties” with the Chinese military and wondered why the Georgian government would cooperate with such a company, especially since the World Bank barred it in 2009 from infrastructure projects due to fraud.

She also referred to the Chinese company’s recent controversial project in Sri Lanka, where the Chinese government was able to secure a 99-year lease, giving the Chinese ships the possibility to come and go “at will.” Amb. Dunnigan said there is a big controversy about Sri Lanka ceding its sovereignty in a key piece of critical infrastructure.

“So, there are a lot of concerns about Anaklia. Of course it’s a sovereign decision, but I’m just reiterating some of the concerns that are heard globally about this particular company,” Amb. Dunnigan concluded.

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


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