(TBILISI) - US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly has stated that he will retire at the end of March, bringing his 33-year diplomatic career to an end. Kelly will give lectures at Northwestern University in Chicago starting April.
US Ambassador Ends His Mission and Diplomatic Career in Georgia
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, February 27
In his farewell speech the Ambassador spoke about his first visit to Georgia and the country’s “incredible transformation.”
“As some of you may recall, I first visited Georgia in 1976 as a student. Those were very different times in this country. While I was greatly impressed by the Georgian people and the country’s rich culture, the Iron Curtain had diminished its beauty and vitality. But coming from the harsh, gray Soviet industrial North, I could still feel an ease and lightness in this beautiful country; qualities that made it distinct and special among the Soviet republics,” Kelly said.
He stated that by the time he arrived to Georgia as an ambassador in 2015, the country had made a landmark achievement in the region, undergoing its first peaceful transition of power in 2012, but was facing another transition as President Mikheil Saakashvili had left office less than one year before.
“I was impressed by the astonishing pace of reforms that followed the Rose Revolution, as well as the new government’s ambitious agenda to move forward. When I travelled to regional centers like the mountain village of Mestia or the bustling seaside town of Batumi, I admired not only Georgia’s rich culture and history, but also the country’s rapid movement into the future,” Kelly stated.
The ambassador stressed that despite a divisive and tense political atmosphere, there was one thing all the people he met agreed on: Georgia’s future was with the West.
“Looking back on my three years here, I see many significant benchmarks of Georgia’s Western integration: signing an Association Agreement with the European Union, initiating the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package, opening the Joint Training and Evaluation Center, and achieving visa-free travel to the Schengen zone to name just a few. Perhaps most importantly, I witnessed three elections conducted open and transparent in accordance with international standards,” he said.
The ambassador spoke about US- Georgia relations and stated that his country is ready to further support Georgia.