SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, good morning. Good morning, Prime Minister. Welcome and congratulations on your hundredth anniversary of your independence. That’s a major milestone along the way. The message, frankly, this morning is that America’s support for Georgia remains strong and steadfast and will continue to do so.
As Vice President Pence said during his visit to Tbilisi last July, we’re with you, we stand with you, we are proud of our friendship and strategic partnership with the nation and the people of Georgia.
Today I’m pleased to join the prime minister in conducting the seventh plenary session of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission. This year is significant in another solemn way as well. 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Georgia. The United States unequivocally condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgian soil. Russia’s forcible invasion of Georgia is a clear violation of international peace and security and goes against the basic principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the Helsinki Final Act.
The Russian-occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are integral parts of Georgia. The United States supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity with its internationally recognized borders. We call on Russia to fulfill all of its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions, to reverse its recognition of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, and to provide free access for humanitarian assistance to each of those two regions.
The United States and NATO depend on strong, willing, resilient partners to help safeguard our common security interests. Georgia is one of those steadfast partners. It has demonstrated its commitment to contribute to international security and uphold Western values. Georgia is the largest non-NATO state troop contributor to Afghanistan, serving without any caveats about the duty – 32 Georgia soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of peace and stability there. The United States honors Georgia’s sacrifice and we are deeply grateful for Georgia’s steadfast support on this important joint mission. The United States and Georgia continue to deepen our security relationship, including through cooperation on fighting global terrorism, stemming the flow of foreign fighters crossing Georgian territory and countering the smuggling of dangerous nuclear materials from the Soviet Union.
In parliamentary and local elections in 2016 and last year, the Georgian people reaffirmed their Euro-Atlantic choice, including Georgia’s future membership in NATO. Our resolve remains. President Trump stands by the 2008 Bucharest declaration and the United States looks forward to one day welcoming Georgia into NATO. During our meeting today, we will discuss all the links between national security, a vibrant economy, and democracy. We know that an open society and a strong economy together are foundational elements for Georgia’s security. The rule of law, combined with an independent judiciary, accountable government, and respect for pluralism are essential for democratic and economic advancement.
To create an even more resilient democracy, the United States encourages Georgia to create opportunities for all voices to be heard in politics, in media, and to strengthen checks and balances in government institutions. Despite Russian occupation of 20 percent of its territory, Georgia has continued to reform. Its success carries with it great responsibility to fulfill the expectations of – to the Georgian people and to deliver economic prosperity and governmental transparency. Our two countries’ prime ministers are close partners and friends. The United States has stood with Georgia for a quarter century, and under President Trump, we will continue to stand with you as partners, friends, and one day as NATO allies as well.
Thank you, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER KVIRIKASHVILI: Thank you, Secretary Pompeo, for your very encouraging words. I would like to thank you for your readiness to convene the plenary session of the strategic partnership council – commission between our countries in your early days of your appointment – up to your appointment in this office. I would like to congratulate you on this appointment to the very important position not only for the United States, but for the world. I am convinced that your vigor and determination will reaffirm U.S. strong leadership position throughout the world and will further lead towards the deeper – even deeper partnership between the United States and Georgia.
In a few days, as you mentioned, we will celebrate the hundred years anniversary of the establishment of the first Democratic Republic of Georgia. We have come a long way to become proud partner and strong ally of the United States. Under the leadership of President Trump, the strategic partnership between our nations has advanced significantly. Looking ahead, we see the great potential to strengthen our relations further, in line with the strategic interests of both countries. And today’s session provides a great opportunity not only to review the progress achieved, but also set the priorities for deepening our ties. Thanks to the U.S.’s continued support, Georgia has consolidated its democracy, strengthened governmental institutions and created more opportunities for economic development not only for Georgia, but for the region as well.
We are proud to be in the list of top reformer countries of the world, and the United States is proud shareholder of this success. Georgia highly values sustained and unequivocal U.S. support for our territorial integrity and sovereignty. The United States support to the process of the peaceful resolution of the conflict with the Russian Federation, the occupation of Georgian territories, Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, is of highest importance to our country and regional stability. Our nations share the goal of preserving peace and stability around the world. We continue to fight terrorism shoulder to shoulder with each other in Afghanistan, where both countries suffered significant casualties. Our bilateral and multilateral defense cooperation is helping Georgia to modernize our armed forces and build our deterrence capabilities.
A few days ago, Army General Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S. European Command, was in Georgia to launch the Georgia Defense Readiness Program, a historical program and training initiative. This marks the beginning of a new era of partnership between our countries, which contributes to the security of Black Sea region, and thus the stability of the greater European security environment. We are at stage where we are ready to make an even more impressive leap in our bilateral and multilateral defense and security cooperation. We have made significant progress in enhancing our NATO interoperability. We are already exceeding NATO standard of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense budget, including more than 20 percent on the equipment. We are pleased to have the opportunity to buy the U.S. military defense equipment. U.S. plays an important role in our Euro-Atlantic integration process.
As we approach the NATO Brussels summit this year, we are looking to the reflection of the great progress we achieved on the NATO membership path. Georgia’s membership in NATO will be a clear added value for the Euro-Atlantic security, and I would like to thank you, Secretary Pompeo, for your reassuring words (inaudible) on Georgia’s NATO membership.
The other area where we enjoyed great support from the United States is the economic transformation and education. The U.S. assistance helped Georgia to become one of the most investor and business-friendly places in the world. Today, as we are turning a new page in our relations, we see significant progress for deepening – potential for deepening our bilateral ties. U.S. private investments in such infrastructure projects like the Anaklia Deep Sea Port will advance further America strategic economic interest in the region.
As a gateway to Eurasia, that possesses a far-reaching and unique FTA network from the EU to China. Complimentary to the U.S. FTA network, Georgia is a perfect foothold for the U.S. businesses to enter the wider region. Georgia is one of the few countries in the world with the institutions, policies and business climate necessary for comprehensive and fair trade deal with the United States. In case of a free trade agreement between our two countries, according to the recent study performed by the PricewaterhouseCoopers, exports of the United States goods can grow by 360 percent in just five years, creating new jobs in the United States.
Mr. Secretary, the potential for future cooperation is great for both nations, and I look forward to working with you on all directions in the interests of people of America and Georgia. And of course, I look forward to seeing you in Georgia. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Great, thank you. Thank you very much. I’m sure we’ll see you again. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER KVIRIKASHVILIA: Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, North Korea, how are negotiations going? Are you expecting any meetings this week? Mr. Secretary?