Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says that as the United States and Georgia celebrate 20 years of diplomatic relations this year, the two nations “have many reasons to be optimistic about what the future holds.”
Clinton spoke June 5 in Batumi, Georgia, at the third annual meeting of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission.
“We are working for the people of our countries and the generations that will follow, whose futures will be shaped by the security, prosperity, freedom and peace that we work together to build today,” the secretary said at the Radisson Blu Hotel.
Thanking Georgian leaders for hosting the meeting, Clinton said the United States and Georgia cooperate across a range of issues, “from strengthening regional and global security to increasing trade and economic ties.”
She said that in 2009, the two countries launched the commission “to take the U.S.-Georgia partnership to the next level” in providing results and benefits for citizens.
Clinton said the American and Georgian people share common goals, interests and values. She praised Georgia’s work to strengthen its democracy, and said continuing this work “is the key to Georgia’s future.” The secretary called on Georgian officials to ensure its upcoming parliamentary elections and 2013 presidential election are free, fair and competitive.
The secretary also called on Georgia to focus on strengthening other key pillars of democracy, such as labor rights, judicial independence and media access.
She applauded Georgia’s parliament for creating incentives to get more women involved in politics.
“Georgia’s government and the country as a whole will be stronger when women have a greater voice and a greater role in helping to shape Georgia’s future,” Clinton said.
She said Georgia’s recent political reforms will play a significant role in helping to foster economic growth.
“As Georgia continues to strengthen accountability, transparency and the rule of law, you will see even greater interest and investment in your economy,” the secretary said. She added that the United States is ready to enhance its economic relationship with Georgia.
“Last week in Washington, officials from our countries fulfilled our two presidents’ pledges from last January to launch a high-level dialogue to strengthen our trade relationship, including the possibility of a free-trade agreement, an updated investment agreement and other measures that could facilitate trade and investment,” Clinton said.
She emphasized the importance of involving minority and women residents of Georgia in its economic development to foster inclusive growth.
Clinton said U.S. and Georgian leaders discussed regional and global security issues as well during the commission meeting. She said the countries already have strong defense cooperation, but “together we can do more.”
She said the United States will work to support Georgia’s continued defense modernization, improve Georgia’s self-defense capabilities and provide the training and equipment necessary for Georgian troops to participate effectively in military operations in Afghanistan. The secretary expressed gratitude for Georgia’s contributions and sacrifices as the largest non-NATO contributor to the international military mission in Afghanistan.
Clinton said talks also covered ways to improve U.S.-Georgia people-to-people ties. She said the United States has taken steps to make it easier for Georgians from across the country, including residents of separatist regions, to travel and study in the United States.
The secretary was scheduled to meet with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili before wrapping up her visit.
Clinton’s stop in Georgia came as part of a seven-nation tour May 31–June 7. The secretary has so far visited Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Armenia, and is scheduled to travel to Azerbaijan and Turkey before returning to Washington.