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Georgian officials raise occupation issue at Defense and Security Conference in Batumi

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Thursday, November 7
At the Opening of the GDSC 2019 in Batumi, the President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili gave a speech. The president addressed the challenges of safety in Georgia and the region, focusing on the recent cyber-attacks inside the country and the developments around the Georgian Church.

“Georgia's Black Sea represents both the potential for future economic development and the security challenge”, Georgian President said at the conference.

As the President noted, the potential of the Black Sea is a hub for Europe and Asia, with infrastructure, transport and communications projects increasingly connecting Georgia with EU partners on the other side.

"This means that economic cooperation with and around the Black Sea must be accompanied by an awareness of security and strategic and defense cooperation to avoid any incident or escalation that we have seen in the Azov Sea," the president said.

“Apart from the new and multilateral threats, the occupied territories remain a major challenge for Georgia every day, with no control over 20 percent of the country's territory”, - Georgian President said in her opening speech at the 13th GDSC in Batumi.

According to her, the occupation means constant tensions with Russia and endless incidents that could escalate into a more dangerous situation.” Georgia is trying to avoid them because it unilaterally refuses to use force, but the ongoing humanitarian hardship of residents on both sides of the occupation line can jeopardize peace and peaceful development at any time.”

Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze also expressed hope for the international community to give response to the ongoing actions of Russia

“We believe that our partners will send a clear message to the Kremlin that changing borders in Europe through occupation and aggression is completely unacceptable”, noted Talakvadze in his speech at the GDSC.

As Talakvadze pointed out, partnership with the United States, NATO and the EU today means more to Georgia than ever before to ensure that we are on the right path, ensuring our peaceful development and progress..

Defense Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili also stressed the occupation issue in his speech at the Conference.

“I am convinced that the debates and discussions here will be particularly topical and distinguished by the quality and the results, as we are in a country where 20% of the territory is occupied by the Russian Federation...We want to focus particularly on NATO's commitments, strengthening its eastern borders by enhancing its member states' deterrence capability as well as Georgia's role in maintaining regional stability and ensuring international security,” he said, adding that Georgia, as an important partner of the US, EU and NATO, is developing, strengthening and focusing on becoming a member of the security community.

“People's voices should be heard, whether it be the opposition, the ruling party or any other party,” Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger told reporters in Batumi, where he is attending GDSC.

He said American partners expect the 2020 elections to be free and fair.

“Georgia has made significant progress in the fight for freedom, justice and corruption. The continuation of this road is important. I think people's voices should be heard, be it the opposition, the ruling party or any other party,” Kinzinger commented.

The Congressman also spoke of the shared challenges of the two nations.

"We see challenges from Russia every day and Russian occupation continues. The challenge is disinformation here and in the US as well. We have to deal with common challenges like cyberattacks. Also, discrediting institutions. At the same time, the US and Georgia recognize a strong friendship,“ said Kinzinger. “I want to say on behalf of the American people that I represent that the United States affirms Georgia's strong support and our partnership,” he added.

The Georgian Defense and Security Conference will last for 2 days in Batumi. Black Sea security issues, Georgia's NATO and EU integration progress and prospects for accession, hybrid threats and Georgia's strategic readiness will be discussed .

The event is attended by high-ranking Georgian and foreign politicians, defense and security experts, civil society, media and academia.