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SFRC Staff Director meets with Georgian officials in Tbilisi

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, February 21
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Staff Director Chris Socha arrived in Tbilisi on February 19 to hold talks concerning the current political environment in Georgia with PM Giorgi Gakharia and gov’t officials, political party leaders, chairman of the parliament and other parliamentarians. He also met with the representatives of the civil society and international NGOs.

According to the embassy, in all of his meetings, Socha reiterated the US’ commitment to Georgia's territorial integrity and its Euro-Atlantic integration.

Head of the committee’s staff also discussed concerns about a weakening of Georgian democracy and rule of law and brought a clear message from the chairman of the committee, U.S. Senator Jim Risch, that the US supports Georgia's democratic development but the institutions of government must respect everyone's political rights and continue to strengthen the checks and balances. According to the statement, this should ensure a proper restriction of government power.

On February 11, Senator Risch responded to the opposition leader, one of the opposition leader Gigi Ugulava's arrest on the official twitter account of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs. He said he was disappointed because "Georgia chose to increase the politically motivated harassment of opposition politicians."

In his tweet Risch also recalled the meeting with the minister of foreign affairs of Georgia Davit Zalkaliani previous week:

”As I told the Georgian foreign minister last week, the collapse of judicial independence & persecution of the opposition is unacceptable behavior.”

Ugulava's arrest was also echoed by Congressman Adam Kissinger, co-chair of the Georgia Friendship Group in Congress. “Saying that this is worrying would be an understatement. The use of the court as a weapon is not a democracy,” tweeted Kinsinger.

Jim Risch and Adam Kinsinger are among the top US politicians who sent letters of concern to the Georgian PM in December-January.