Speeches & Statements

Remarks at the U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership Omnibus Meeting

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Secretary Gordon. And let me welcome warmly the prime minister and this very distinguished delegation here for the second annual omnibus meeting under the U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership.

One of my goals as Secretary of State was to deepen and broaden our relationship and to look for the opportunity that comes with a Strategic Partnership dialogue that gets beyond the heads of state and the heads of government and into the actual working parts of the government, because I know very well, as I look around the room at my colleagues from across our government, that the prime minister and I will make the speeches, but the hard work will be done by the people from both of our delegations.

I was very pleased to have a chance to meet the prime minister during my visit to Georgia in July. And I saw President Saakashvili in New York where we continued our excellent discussion. Those earlier talks and our meeting today have all affirmed the vital friendship between our countries.

The relationship between Georgia and the United States stands on a foundation of shared values and common interests. The Charter that our countries signed in January 2009 has given us a framework for further developing our cooperation. And today, I want to reiterate our commitment to working together to advance Georgia's security and democracy.

The United States will not waver in its support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. That support is a core principle of our Charter on Strategic Partnership, and it is fundamental to our bilateral relationship.

The United States remains committed to Georgia's aspirations for membership in NATO, as reflected in the Alliance's decisions in Bucharest and Strasbourg-Kehl. We strongly support Georgia's efforts related to its Annual National Program, which promotes defense reform and guides cooperation with NATO. And we continue to support Georgia's efforts on defense reform and improving defense capabilities, including NATO interoperability and Georgia's contributions to ISAF operations in Afghanistan.

We are extremely grateful for Georgia's contributions to NATO's efforts in Afghanistan. Seven hundred and fifty Georgian soldiers in ISAF are serving shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. Marines in Helmand Province, with another 200 serving with French troops. They are helping Afghans build a more secure, stable, and prosperous future, and working to safeguard our common security against the threat of terrorism. And we were deeply saddened by your loss last week of the four Georgian soldiers and by the casualties that you endured earlier. I want to express our condolences and solidarity with the Georgian people in the face of our shared sacrifice and loss.

We continue to call on Russia to end its occupation of Georgian territory, withdraw its forces, and abide by its other commitments under the 2008 ceasefire agreements. Georgia has taken a constructive approach in our common efforts to address this challenge through the talks in Geneva. We support the objectives of Georgia's State Strategy on Occupied Territories, and we are prepared to undertake activities that reinforce these important objectives.

As part of our commitment to enhancing Georgia's future as a prosperous and secure member of the Western family of nations, we will continue to work with you to strengthen Georgian democracy. Free elections, sound institutions, and a vibrant civil society are prerequisites for the long-term stability and legitimacy of any government. That's true in the United States and it's true in Georgia.

Now democracy in Georgia has made great strides over the last seven years. The conduct of the municipal elections this May represented real tangible progress. But there is still a lot of work ahead to address issues of political competition, fundraising, and accountability, including a thorough investigation of any alleged irregularities in May's elections.

Georgia's parliamentary elections in 2012 and the presidential elections in 2013 should showcase a Georgian democracy that not only meets, but exceeds international standards. It will be important for Georgia's people and for the international community. The progress that Georgia has made against corruption is already serving as a role model for many other countries seeking to replicate the success that Georgia has had. We look forward to working with you toward these goals and encourage you to keep working with a cross section of Georgia's civil society and opposition groups as you bolster Georgia's democracy.

Constitutional reform is the most obvious and most important reform challenge facing Georgia today. It represents the opportunity for Georgians to build on everything you have accomplished since the Rose Revolution. And I hope the parliament will recognize that opportunity as it concludes its consideration of the constitutional reform package. The United States supports the recommendations that the Venice Commission has put forward for strengthening Georgia's system of checks and balances. And we stand ready to assist in this process however we can.

So, let me again thank the prime minister for being here today. Let me reiterate, and end where I started, we are deeply committed to this partnership. We care about Georgia's security and Georgia's democracy. We support the Georgian people in your aspirations to build a better future. And we appreciate this opportunity to strengthen that close relationship at many levels in both of our governments to build relationships among people, not just between governments, and to support the kind of changes that are occurring in Georgia that we, in turn, can then trumpet to our own people here, including investors who we would urge to take a close look at Georgia and others in our country who are standing by and urging on and cheering for the changes that Georgia is making and the role model that you are becoming.

Thank you.

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