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William Burns in Georgia for High Level Meetings

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, October 20
William Burns US Deputy Secretary of State for Human Rights and Democracy met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on October 19. The sides discussed deepening bilateral cooperation between Georgia and the US in the frame of the strategic partnership charter. The meeting of Saakashvili and Burns was also attended by the Ambassador of the United States in Georgia John Bass, Chairman of the National Security Council of Georgia, Giga Bokeria, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Sergi Kapanadze.

Emphasizing the bravery of Georgian soldiers, Burns expressed gratitude towards the Georgian president for participating in the ISAF program. Welcoming democratic and economic reforms in Georgia carried out under Saakashvili’s government, the US Deputy Secretary wished professional success to the Georgian people.

The current situation in the South Caucasus and cooperation within international organizations were among the most important issues discussed with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigol Vashadze the previous day. The US Deputy Secretary reaffirmed the US government’s unwavering support for Georgia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, democratic development and integration into the Euro-Atlantic space with his Georgian colleague.

In the frame of his tour of South Caucasus countries, Burns held a wide range of meetings with the Georgian political and public spectrum at the residence of US ambassador Bass. As Irakli Alasania, leader of Our Georgia – Free Democrats stated, they shared their concerns about the ongoing political processes in the country and “extremism” carried out against the new player of the Georgian politics - Bidzina Ivanishvili. Providing Burns with the relevant documentation around Ivanishvili’s case, Alasania expressed concern about the incompatibility of the processes with democratic values. “We spoke about the changes necessary for holding free elections and agreed that the US would continue supporting Georgia in creating democratic institutions,” Alasania stated.

Republican Levan Berdzenishvili welcomed Ivanishvili’s engagement in politics, explaining that this step would definitely improve the elections. Unhappy with the cooperation between the government and opposition on the new draft of the election code Berdzenishvili doubted that Georgia would enter NATO or EU under Saakashvili’s “eternal governance”. “The US perfectly understands our situation”, Levan Berdzenishvili said satisfied with the meeting.

The New Rights also raised the issue of upcoming elections. Accusing the government of changing the new election code without consultation the party hoped that the government would return to its initial version of the document that was agreed on between the government and opposition. The leader of the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) Giorgi Targamadze spoke of the US as the main partner in the non-recognition of the separatist regions. Talking of political reforms and elections as an indivisible part of state security, Targamadze stressed the need for raising public trust towards the political parties. “We spoke of the importance of creating a competitive environment [in the country] where people would create politics,” explained the oppositionist.

Meeting with Rustavi 2, Media Palitra and Rezonansi newspaper, the US Deputy Secretary hoped that the governance would democratically change in 2013. Promising to support the democratization processes in Georgia, Burns said the US would also encourage development of civil society, freedom and independence of media, supremacy of law based on impartiality of court and other things. “We want democratic reforms to be transparent in your country,” Burns told the journalists emphasizing the importance of security and democracy in the region.

Announcing that US Secretary Hilary Clinton would visit Georgia next year, Burns emphasized the importance of cooperation between Georgia and the US within the Strategic Partnership Commission which aims at deepening cooperation between the two countries in various aspects. “We fully encourage Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO which we will affirm at the Lisbon Summit,” Burns told the journalists stressing that it is up to Georgia to continue strengthening Euro-Atlantic values by ensuring democratic processes in the country.