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Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, The Land of the Golden Fleece,  leaving office today,  honored Hillary Clinton with the Order of the Golden Fleece.   

Saakashvili gives Hillary Clinton the Golden Fleece award

by | Nov 17, 2013

TBILISI, DFWatch–President Mikheil Saakashvili has awarded former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the Golden Fleece award.

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Not to be confused with other awards with similar names, the Order of the Golden Fleece in Georgia is highly prestigious and a great honor.

Order of the Golden Fleece ribbon bar

Established in 1998, the Order of the Golden Fleece is awarded to individuals with foreign citizenship and those holding no citizenship who have significantly contributed to governmental improvement, national security interests, sovereignty and protection of territorial unity, formation of democratic and free society, development of useful bilateral relationships with foreign countries and international organizations, protection of rights of Georgian citizens living abroad, popularization of Georgian culture, and development of Georgian science and art. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a notable recipient of the Order.

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Hillary’s final visit to Georgia as Secretary of State was in early June 2012.   At that time, President Saakashvili had these words to say about her.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (

PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI:Madam Secretary, I will speak in English (inaudible). They have heard me already speak in Georgian many times.It is an immense pleasure to welcome you here again today in Georgia. You have always been an outstanding friend of our nation. I want, in the name of Georgian people, our multiethnic nation, to express our deep gratitude to you, Hillary, for your personal leadership on all our issues and your longstanding support for Georgia’s democracy. Ladies and gentlemen, if Georgia is today an independent state progressing at a good path on its way to the EU and NATO, it is, of course, first thanks to the Georgian people’s commitment and courage. But the support of the United States of America throughout all these 20 years, and in particular the support of President Obama and Secretary Clinton in the recent period, was instrumental, fundamental for our survival and our continued success.

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It is wonderful to see our Hillary so appreciated and honored as the hero she is to democracies around the globe.

Congratulations, Mme. Secretary.  It is an honor so very richly deserved!

While in Georgia on her last visit, Secretary Clinton also participated in the U.S. – Georgia Strategic Partnership Session and the commissioning of a Coast Guard ship.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton adUS Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri (R) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at

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Mme. Secretary was accompanied to the Batumi International Airport by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.  She was greeted with a beautiful bouquet in Baku, Azerbaijan by Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.

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At the end of  a very busy and productive day in Batumi, Georgia, today, President Saakashvili and his wife Sandra Roelofs took Secretary Clinton out for an evening on the town.  They supped at the Adjarian Wine House where Mme. Secretary explored an ancient wine basin and sampled some fine Georgian wines.  After dinner,  they took in a cultural singing and dancing performance at the Piazza. and strolled through the streets.  The ferris wheel at Batumis Bulvari provided a lively backdrop.

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Remarks With Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Public Service Hall
Batumi, Georgia
June 5, 2012

PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI:Madam Secretary, I will speak in English (inaudible). They have heard me already speak in Georgian many times.It is an immense pleasure to welcome you here again today in Georgia. You have always been an outstanding friend of our nation. I want, in the name of Georgian people, our multiethnic nation, to express our deep gratitude to you, Hillary, for your personal leadership on all our issues and your longstanding support for Georgia’s democracy.

Ladies and gentlemen, if Georgia is today an independent state progressing at a good path on its way to the EU and NATO, it is, of course, first thanks to the Georgian people’s commitment and courage. But the support of the United States of America throughout all these 20 years, and in particular the support of President Obama and Secretary Clinton in the recent period, was instrumental, fundamental for our survival and our continued success.

I want to commend here the firm commitment of the U.S. to our sovereignty, our territorial integrity within our legitimate borders. Its constant help in our reform process, its firm denunciation of the illegal occupation of our territories, and it repeated calls for the rights of hundreds of thousands, around 500,000 internally displaced persons of Georgians of all ethnic and religious backgrounds, to go back to their houses. This American policy allows the Georgian democratic sphere to overcome key challenge as it achieves striking results. The partnership between our two nations is made from shared values and for its purpose – standing up for freedom and also of its common interests.

Secretary Clinton’s visit, the strategic partnership charter meeting, and the discussions held today constitute another step forward in the constant enhancing of our cooperation. These talks are following the meeting held with President Obama at the White House in January – really very interesting talks and meeting – they allowed us to progress on all objectives that were set last January. Our security cooperation is on the right track. Today’s ceremony with the coast guard was a good symbol of our progress in that matter, the (inaudible) process of enhancing our self-defense capacity is now real and concrete. The U.S. is committed to it, and the forward steps were discussed today.

I welcome our (inaudible) close cooperation in order to ensure the irreversibility of the Georgian democratic reforms. My government is committed to have free and fair parliamentary elections this October. Georgia’s public attachment to democracy (inaudible) is expressed in the Rose Revolution, and (inaudible) ever since, so I am sure that these elections will express the free will of the Georgian people.

And I also welcome (inaudible) support to our request for international observation missions. We really want to have as many legitimate observers in place as we can get to make the transparent – elections as transparent, as fair, as trustworthy as we can get. Your support, Madam Secretary, for my government calls toward minorities and to our commitment to an open, democratic, and multiethnic society is essential.

Progress on our people-to-people relations is good. More Georgians now travel to the U.S., including for study, and we have thousands of America’s teachers teaching English to Georgian kids here. We also would be – we are also grateful for the support for our policies of engagement of the Georgian citizens living in the occupied territories.

President Obama mentioned in January the prospect of a free trade agreement between the U.S. and Georgia. That has made Georgia the only country in Europe that might have eventually free trade agreement with the United States – quite a big privilege and thrill to get there.

I welcome the concrete process of high-level dialogue that has started since then and that will allow us to progress toward that amazing goal, which, as the American president has put, are in the mutual interests of the American and Georgian business.

Finally, I want to thank you, Madam Secretary, for your Administration’s leadership and your personal leadership of the decided question of our integration into Euro-Atlantic alliance. The last summit in Chicago was an important step forward toward that process for Georgia. The language of the communiqué, the meeting of the 28 allies with the four aspirant countries that put Georgia in the same group as the three Balkan states, and the words you pronounced during the meetings on enlargement perspectives and talking to them at length about Georgia’s continued reform and progress and success showed to everybody that Georgia was closer than ever to fulfill its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Your words in Chicago were like music to the ears of my people, I can tell you right now. I know that. We need for that to keep up the momentum for the course and to count on our allies’ commitment. We are confident of both, in a large part thanks to your unwavering friendship.

Thank you again. It’s a great honor to host you here.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Mr. President, and it is a great pleasure to be back in Georgia, and particularly to be here on the Black Sea and to see all of the development taking place in Batumi. When I was last here in Tbilisi, you showed me posters of everything that was happening in Batumi and urged me to come see for myself, and I’m very pleased that I have this opportunity to do that.

The partnership between Georgia and the United States reflects the energy, the entrepreneurship, and the dynamism of our people and societies. More than that, our relationship delivers results. You can see that just from what we have achieved in the past few weeks.

This morning, we held the third annual plenary session of our Strategic Partnership Commission, covering topics from bolstering peace and security to promoting global economic growth and deepening democratic values. We confirmed plans for a new agreement to help our scientific communities collaborate more closely.

We also discussed the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s plan to move forward with its second compact with Georgia, a show of confidence in Georgia’s future. Reforming and modernizing Georgia’s defense establishment is also one of our shared priorities. Earlier today, I attended the commissioning of a coast guard vessel that the United States and Georgia refurbished together to help Georgia defend against threats from terrorism, drugs, and human trafficking.

We also discussed Georgia’s commitment to the ISAF operations in Afghanistan, including your pledge to help sustain the Afghan National Security Force after the 2014 transition. Georgian troops fight bravely alongside American forces in Afghanistan, and we greatly honor their courage and sacrifice. Georgia is already the largest per capita contributor of troops to our efforts in Afghanistan, and we thank you for sending a second battalion which will make you the largest non-NATO contributor.

We have also agreed this year on several new areas of defense cooperation. The United States will provide training and support for Georgian defense forces to better monitor your coasts and your skies. We will help upgrade Georgia’s utility helicopter fleet so it can more easily transport supplies and people throughout your country. We are also going to help Georgia give its officers the 21st century training they need for today’s changing missions. With these efforts, Georgia will be a stronger international partner with an improved capacity for self-defense.

Of course, Georgia’s long-term security and prosperity will depend in large part on the quality of your democracy. And this is a moment of great opportunity for your country. The United States will stand with the Georgian people as you take the next steps to strengthen the rights, freedom, and opportunities of all your citizens. Every Georgian deserves to live in a tolerant, democratic, inclusive society.

Today, I met with leaders of opposition parties and discussed their vital role in deepening Georgia’s democratic development. The United States believes competing energies and ideas drive the democratic process. Civic activism, open debate, a level playing field, citizens’ access to information are all vital as you move toward parliamentary elections and then presidential elections. We expect Georgia will hold free and fair elections this fall, and then complete a democratic transfer of power in 2013. And we believe that every party and every candidate should respect the political process, and we look forward to welcoming a strong relationship with those that the Georgian people choose.

Let me also say, as both President Obama and I have repeated many times before, the United States remains steadfast in our commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. Today we also discussed ways Georgia can reach out to the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions, including providing status-neutral travel documents and identification cards. Soon U.S. Embassies and consulates around the world will accept the status-neutral travel document for any resident from these regions who chooses to use them for travel or study in the United States. This would be a strong step toward reconciliation that supports a peaceful and just resolution of the conflict.

Finally, when President Saakashvili met with President Obama in the Oval Office earlier this year, one of the key issues they discussed was how to increase trade and investment between our countries. And just last week we launched our new High-Level Trade and Investment Dialogue. This group will explore a range of mechanisms to continue strengthening trade relations between our countries, including the possibility of a free trade agreement between Georgia and the United States, an updated investment agreement, and other measures that could facilitate trade and investments.

This is a relationship that gets things done and has for 20 years, because after all, Mr. President, we commemorate the 20th year of our diplomatic relations. We’ve seen a lot of change in that time. Georgia has moved from a closed country under communist rule to an active member of the Open Government Partnership. We are meeting in a building, the Public Service Hall, that is a testament to the positive changes that Georgia has made. And I would like to say as someone who has the honor of traveling the world, so many countries, particularly new and struggling democracies, are looking to Georgia. They want to know how Georgia has accomplished so much in such a short period of time. I look forward to seeing where the next 20 years take you.

Now before I conclude, I’d like to take a moment to send congratulations to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on behalf of the American people. For 60 years, the American people have admired her strength, her resilience, and her commitment to freedom and human dignity for all people. We join her subjects and people around the world in celebrating Her Majesty’s historic Diamond Jubilee.

So thank you once again, Mr. President, for your friendship and to the people of Georgia for the strong partnerships between our people and our governments. This is an exciting time in the history of Georgia, and we want to see you go from strength to strength and continue to improve the lives of the Georgia people as well as serve as a model for people everywhere. Thank you.

PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Madam Secretary, we don’t want to be – thank you so much for these very kind and supportive words. We don’t want to be left out, so we’ll join in your congratulations to Her Majesty the Queen and all the best wishes and wish her another hundred years of her very fruitful reign. And by the way, when you talk about (inaudible) Public Hall, on the right there you see the University – the American university that is being built in Batumi. And I can tell you the joke with this: If you go and look at this building now as it is, you would never believe it, but (inaudible) the highest building in the Caucasus, the tallest building in Caucasus, and actually, it will be the university that’s a symbol of democracy. And it shall be not just another university, but an American university. UCLA and other major American universities are right now organizing (inaudible). It was first ever American – fully American university in post-Soviet state because – there are some others, but they are not really run fully by American universities. And it will be here. And it was assisted by American Government through Millennium Challenge Corporation program. So we’re immensely proud and all of you are invited to the opening in September. (Laughter.)

Anyway, now you’re invited (inaudible). (Laughter.)

Yes. I’m not running the press conference (inaudible). (Laughter.)

MODERATOR: Natia Gogsadze Rustavi

SECRETARY CLINTON: Wait, wait, wait, wait.

MODERATOR: Would like to ask in Georgian.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Natia Gogsadze’s Rustavi 2. Madam Secretary of State, very soon we will have parliamentary elections in Georgia. And on the other hand, as we know, Russian Federation tries to organize its military exercise, military training will be coinciding with our elections. On the other hand, Mr. Putin made a statement and he said that Russia is interested in the results of the Georgian election. Therefore, there is certain kind of concern in our country about external intervention. To what extent is this threat possible? What is your take? What is your opinion about it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I believe that the 2012 parliamentary elections and the 2013 presidential elections are really in the hands of the Georgian people. I believe that they will be a crucial indicator of the progress Georgia has made on its democratic path, and the president and I, as I discussed also earlier with the prime minister, have expressed our hopes that this will be a model election that will provide a competitive electoral environment.

Now, I think the single best thing Georgia can do to advance your security, your prosperity, your democracy, your international reputation, is to hold free and fair elections that result in a fully democratic transition. And we praise Georgia’s initiative to open its early electoral process to a range of international observers, because monitoring is a key to ensuring fairness and transparency.

So yes, there will be military maneuvers, but the really important event of the fall will occur inside Georgia as the people of Georgia cast their votes. I cannot think of a stronger message that could be sent to anyone anywhere in the world than that. And so we will clearly continue to consult closely with the Georgian Government to ensure that we are standing with you, but the most critical event is not another country’s military’s exercises – it is Georgia’s elections. And that will speak louder than any military exercise could ever do about what Georgians stand for, your resilience, your strength, your commitment to democracy.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Reuters wanted to ask question, right? Yes, please.

QUESTION: President Saakashvili, can you categorically rule out the possibility that you might seek the prime ministership? And Secretary Clinton, do you believe that President Putin’s leaving the presidency to become prime minister and then returning to the Kremlin as president has set a bad precedent?

PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Well, first of all, I have to say Madam Secretary also was talking about this. The democratic transfer of power is a normal part of any democracy. And by the way, Georgia – it has already been happening for those of you who have been watching, because we moved part of the central government’s power, the presidential powers, to the directly elected mayor of Tbilisi, to elected city councils all around the country. We are continuing towards decentralization of that process, remove parliamentary (inaudible) on the posture, and actually that also means that more power is to be shifting to the regions from the – and powers of the regions. And I think Georgia has developed a number of very important institutions like (inaudible) that make – that – which will raise focus on institutions rather than all of its individual personalities. In this future political process, it is hugely important what the institution will do.

And since they won, I was in the office, I was offered this brilliant opportunity to turn myself into lame duck voluntarily, especially considering what kind of reforms we have to achieve and complete by the end of my second term. I’m certainly not going to cede to this temptation to do it, even for such a wonderful agency as Reuters.

But as I said, the process is there. Georgian democracy is getting stronger. And ultimate that matters most of all to me and basically to my nation as well. Ultimately, people’s choice is the most respected one that – and I think that will be – ultimately it will make the whole difference, indeed. Today it made a difference; it will make difference in October; it will make difference next year and in the future.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not going to speculate on hypotheticals, and I’m not going to comment on the reality of another country’s leader right now. But let me just emphasize how important it is that the decisions that are made by Georgia’s leaders and citizens demonstrate a firm commitment to the building of democratic institutions. I think that’s what the president was just saying, that in any democracy, institutions have to be more important than people. Individual leaders should come and go, but institutions should be strengthened. And one of the ways of doing that is to have an election first for the parliament, then for the presidency, that are universally regarded as valid. That will speak volumes about where Georgia is on your path to a sustainable democracy.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

Please.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Lika Beraia, TV company Imedi —

SECRETARY CLINTON: Wait just one second. I’m sorry.

Okay.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Lika Beraia, TV company Imedi. I have a question to Madam Secretary of State. Following the Chicago summit, Russia expressed its negative position regarding intention of NATO, and in this context it’s (inaudible) negative, particularly with regard to Georgia. Some analysts say that Russia has the right to use so-called veto. Do you agree with this possibility?

SECRETARY CLINTON: As we stated at the Chicago NATO summit, the United States and all NATO allies support Georgia’s aspirations for NATO membership, and we reaffirmed the Bucharest decision and all subsequent decisions. We continue to work closely with Georgia both bilaterally and through the NATO-Georgia Commission to support the goals that Georgia has set for itself in its annual national program. And we remain committed to supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we strongly support the principle that all countries, including Georgia, should be free to choose their own alliances, including their security alliances.

MODERATOR: One more question from Americans. Yes, please.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, the leaders of China and Russia met today in Beijing and agreed to cooperate together more closely at the United Nations. President Hu said that this would enable them to put the global order on a more fair and more rational course.

What is your reaction to that? And is this a setback for your efforts to get a unified response to the crisis in Syria?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s pretty clear that we all have to intensify our efforts to speed a political transition, and that has to be the main focus of our diplomacy and our work, both with each other, within the international community, at the United Nations, and other settings, even as we increase political and economic pressure on the Assad regime. And I think it’s clear to anyone, I think it’s hard to reach any other fair and reasonable conclusion that after what we have seen in the last 10 days, particularly the massacre in Houla, that peace and human dignity will not be possible in Syria without political change. So I will look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues tomorrow in Istanbul. I will then be seeing Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan in Washington on Friday, and we believe there is a way forward and we’re going to continue to pursue that. And we invite the Russians and the Chinese to be part of the solution of what is happening in Syria.

MODERATOR: Thank you, all of you. Thank you for this opportunity. Thank you, Madam Secretary.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you.

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Remarks With Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili Preceding Bilateral Meeting

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
February 1, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s a pleasure to welcome the president here to the State Department. He’s had a number of excellent meetings and consultations here in Washington, starting with the very comprehensive meeting he had with President Obama in the Oval Office. Georgia is a valued partner. They are actively participating in Afghanistan, where Georgian soldiers are showing great courage and professionalism. We are pursuing a system of consultations to determine the way forward on further trade and investment. There’s a lot of work going on in our bilateral consultations on education, on health, on good governance, on rule of law, on defense and security cooperation. So, the president’s had a very busy week here and there are more people for him to see. There’s a great deal of interest in Georgia in our capital. And again, welcome, Mr. President.PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Thank you, Madam Secretary. First of all, I would like to express utmost gratitude for your strong support, not just in words but in action, for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and independence, because it’s lots of daily work. It’s a great struggle. Sometimes it’s like uphill struggle because it’s against the forces that are trying to undermine us. And your personal participation, President Obama’s personal backing for it was – it goes without saying, and that’s something that we really appreciate a lot.

And certainly, I walked out also from this office, but also from the Oval Office where we were also present, totally elated because I heard everything I wanted to hear. And I mean, it’s – I’ve been in there before. But this time, because the country has also matured – my country has also matured up to the challenges – I think we now are moving to another level in cooperation. And with free trade agreement, nobody could have imagined that Georgia would ever start to qualify for that a few years ago. The next level of defense cooperation – and we are proud to serve with you in Afghanistan – was unimaginable a couple of years ago.

Further development of our bilateral ties in all kinds of other fields where Georgia just had to get to this level to be good partners with you. And again, this mature Georgia wouldn’t have been possible without your personal involvement, and we are looking forward to seeing you in our city of Batumi in months to come. And again, thank you so much. Thank you for treating us like this, because I’ve really, as I said, my nation (inaudible) people in our region have been watching and we’ve been –we are not going back empty handed but we are so much (inaudible), so many things to carry back that it’s sensational. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Thank you so much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.

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While we wait for whatever news and photos are released from her day with Bibi, I thought I would share these from yesterday when Secretary Clinton took a nice walk through Tblisi. President Saakashvili and Mayor Ugulava inroduced her to Georgian wine and their views of the Caspian Sea. Beautiful views, nice reception among the population for the beautiful SOS.





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Joint Press Availability With Georgian President Saakashvili

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Presidential Palace
Tbilisi, Georgia
July 5, 2010

PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Well, Madam Secretary, dear guests, distinguished members of the media, first let me begin on behalf of the Georgia people by congratulating Secretary Clinton, her delegation, and all American people, for the Fourth of July. Two hundred and thirty-four years ago, America began a bold and transformative experiment, based on a set of fundamental values. These are also the values we share with you. And every time we speak and talk and think about transformation of Georgia — and, Madam Secretary, you could have seen on my bookshelves works by Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers, framers of the U.S. Constitution — I keep going back and reading them. But it’s also not only me, but the whole team which you saw today here that believes and very much thinks in those terms and values.
So it is, therefore, with great pleasure, and it’s a great honor as well, to welcome you, Madam Secretary, to a free Georgia. If we are able to welcome you to an independent and democratic country, it is largely thanks to the solidarity of the American people, to our profound and deep partnership, and to the consistent leadership shown by President Obama and Secretary Clinton.
Throughout the years, since the fall of the Soviet Union, American assistance has been decisive in protecting Georgian independence, helping our democracy to grow, and in making our own experiment truly (inaudible). This has been especially true in the recent critical period after the invasion of our country in 2008 in his statements defending our sovereignty by President Obama, the visit of Vice President Biden here last year, and your personal commitment to the end of occupation of our country even a few days ago in Krakow, have been and are essential.
I would like to take this opportunity to once again publicly thank you and the American people for their assistance and partnership provided in support of our democracy, our reforms, and for the $1 billion of assistance that was so critical in our time of need. These are all concrete examples of our lasting and strategic partnership, and they demonstrate (inaudible) a special U.S.-Georgia relationship. Because our relationship was based on shared values and our common aspirations, I know that it can only deepen and grow under our leadership.
Our substantial and friendly discussion today confirms to all of us that the support we receive, the partnership we have built, is growing in substance and form. I am very aware that much remains to be done to ensure security and to continue our reforms, including the modernization of our country. But we want to tell the world that Georgia is a model of political and economic reforms, is a shining example — at least for this region — Georgia, as a full-fledged, optimistic country, is back. And despite the occupation and (inaudible), we have a robust and meaningful economic growth.

Despite these challenges, we are pursuing our integration through the family of Western democracies. And we will never stray away from the path of profound democratic and social transformation. On this path we know that we can count on U.S. assistance, support, and leadership. Our strategic charter unites our two countries and peoples. It has created an ideal framework for continuous cooperation, (inaudible) from security to democracy, people-to-people relations, and economic cooperation. Our charter is based on the common values that make our partnership universal, the strong belief that nations can choose their path, and the firm conviction that individual freedoms are the basis of every accomplishment you can have.
Let me tell you today I feel more certain than ever that these values have found in this American (inaudible) strong and dedicated promoters and leaders. Here in Georgia we will continue our efforts with renewed vigor. Our progress cannot and will not be stopped. I look forward to building up what we discussed today, and to strengthen our common legacy. Thank you, Madam Secretary. You have the floor.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Mr. President, and thank you for this very kind and warm welcome to Georgia. This is a wonderful opportunity for me, because this is my first visit here, and it will not be my last. And so I thank you for the very productive discussions that we have had.

And I want to say publicly what I have said privately. I came to Georgia with a clear message from President Obama and myself. The United States is steadfast in its commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The United States does not recognize spheres of influence. President Obama and I have also communicated this message directly to our Russian counterparts, most recently during our meetings in Washington on June 24th.
We continue to call for Russia to abide by the August 2008 cease fire commitment signed by President Saakashvili and President Medvedev, including ending the occupation and withdrawing Russian troops from South Ossetia and Abkhazia to their pre-conflict positions. We also stressed the need for humanitarian access to the territories. And we will continue to work toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict through established international mechanisms and constructive non-violent channels.
The United States and Georgia share a deep friendship. And we very much value the partnership between our countries. We are committed to the success of Georgia’s democracy and economy, and we are continuing to build on the framework for cooperation that was institutionalized in the U.S.-Georgia charter on strategic partnership last year.
We very much appreciate Georgia’s significant contributions to the international security assistance force in Afghanistan, and honor its commitment to fighting terrorism around the world. As we stand here today, Georgian soldiers are fighting alongside U.S. Marines in Helmand Province, and helping Afghans build a more peaceful future for their own country. And I thank the Georgian people, and particularly the Georgian military, for their service, sacrifice, and bravery. These contributions provide strong evidence of Georgia’s diligent movement toward meeting the requirements for membership in NATO.

We are also committed to supporting Georgia’s political and economic reforms. We are pleased to see Georgia’s steady economic growth in the wake of the global financial crisis. And we were encouraged by the steps made toward meeting the OSCE and the Council of Europe standards for democratic elections seen in the recent municipal elections.
Earlier today I met with women leaders who are helping build a culture of democracy and confidence in the electoral process. Georgia has made real progress in the past few years, improving living standards, reducing corruption, and building one of the fastest reforming economies in the world, all while facing some very difficult circumstances. But, as you know better than I, there are still shortcomings. We want to urge Georgia to continue the work of the Rose Revolution. And the United States will do everything we can to assist our partners inside and outside the Georgian Government, as they strive to strengthen democratic institutions and processes.
We are committed to supporting Georgians, Georgians who are working to build a future that is freer, more democratic, more prosperous, and more secure. And I personally am looking forward to watching Georgia’s continuing progress. And I thank you, Mr. President, for these very constructive discussions.
PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
QUESTION: Georgian (inaudible). Mr. President, Madam Secretary, my question is today, during the meeting with family leaders, you said that in Georgia many peoples live in condition of occupation. And so you mentioned that USA never accepts occupation of Georgia. And my question is, do you want to discuss with Russian leadership during — between your (inaudible) — (inaudible) during meetings with the national leadership?

PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: So did they discuss or not? That’s the —
SECRETARY CLINTON: The answer is yes. As I told the president, President Obama and I and other American officials raise our concerns about the invasion and occupation with Russian counterparts on a consistent basis. And it is very important for us that we do so, because we are very frank in asserting our concerns and our ongoing support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Now, we are engaging with Russia bilaterally, in talking to Russian leaders about our concerns. But we also are engaging multilaterally through the Geneva process and in OSCE. We have expressed our concerns about the Russian Government’s construction of permanent military bases. We have made clear that we consider such construction to be in contradiction to Russia’s 2008 cease fire commitments. And we continue to call on Russia to fully comply with the cease fire agreement that they signed, including the withdrawal of their troops to the pre-conflict positions, and humanitarian access to the separatist regions.
PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Any American journalists? Yes.
QUESTION: Ahmed of Reuters. Secretary Clinton, in your remarks at the town hall this morning, you said that the United States wants to revive and intensify the Geneva diplomatic process. What exactly do you have in mind in that regard, given that the process, as your language suggests, is somewhat moribund?
And, secondly, at the same event, you talked about how making Georgia a vibrant and economically and politically vibrant society was, in a way, the best rebuke to the Russian presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And it seemed almost as if you felt that there was little or no hope of any kind of a short-term solution here, and that this is perhaps a medium or a long-term objective, at best.
Is that how you see it, that this is something that simply won’t happen any time in the foreseeable future, and therefore, one needs to think very long-term about a resolution?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we would, of course, like to see action immediately. And that is one of the reasons why, as I responded to the young woman’s question, we engage with Russia in many different settings, one of which is in Geneva. We believe that the Geneva discussions are an important international forum to try to enhance transparency, to help decrease tensions, to promote regional stability. And we welcome the openness of various parties toward using the incident prevention and response mechanism, the so-called IPRM. And we strongly urged South Ossetia to immediately resume use of the IPRM. Similarly, we have asked Russia to encourage South Ossetia to return to that mechanism.
Now, for several rounds, the Geneva discussions have focused on a non-use of force agreement. And during the June 8th discussions, the most recent ones, we underscored and emphasized the fact that the August 12, 2008 cease fire agreement signed by the Georgian and Russian leadership, mediated by French President Sarkozy, already establishes both sides’ commitment to the non-use of force. Full implementation of that agreement by Russia renders an additional non-use of force agreement unnecessary.
So, we are calling on the Russians to enforce the agreement that they signed back in August of 2008. The United States believes that another such agreement is something that may perhaps be positive, but only if it includes the Russian Federation and meets the concerns of all the parties, and includes meaningful implementation measures, and does not politicize the status issue.
And the United States reminded the Russian delegation this past June 8th again that any unilateral steps that Russia has taken, such as its recognition of these regions as independent, do not relieve Russia of the commitments President Medvedev made in the August 12th cease fire agreement.
So, our position concerning the Geneva process is to intensify, as much as we can, our involvement and to keep raising the issues that are important to resolving this matter. We strongly, for example, urged the Abkhaz de facto authorities to participate constructively in the peace process discussions in Geneva. And there is a constant diplomatic effort going on around this.
Now, I cannot predict the time by which this matter will be settled. I am very hopeful that it will be something that can be resolved in the near future. But whether it’s in months or years, it’s important for Georgia to continue its modernization reform efforts. Because, as I said in the town hall, that sends a very strong message to the Georgian people, first and foremost, and to the people in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as to the Russians and other parties, that Georgia’s democracy, Georgia’s economy, are still moving forward, that this occupation has not undermined the Georgian Government and the Georgian people’s commitment to their own internal efforts to build the strongest possible state for the best future.
PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Yes.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Madam Secretary, Mr. President, you have touched on (inaudible) issues. But let me ask you (inaudible) claims that Georgia is in a very special sphere of interest. These are the words of Dmitri Medvedev, as well. And they claim that Georgia will never accept NATO membership, and they will contradict it in (inaudible). And how do you think — what kind of reaction could have Washington toward this issue? And how could you contribute (inaudible) of Russia about this question?
And secondly, let me ask you as well, in general U.S. is Georgia’s major partner and supporter and, in the past years, demonstrated that U.S. Government always give its helpful hand to Georgia. And, Madam Secretary, let me ask you. How could you specify why is Georgia so important for U.S. Government? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, with respect to Russia’s claims to any sphere of influence, the United States flatly rejects that. We are living in a time when independent sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions about organizations they wish to join, to make determinations that are in the best interests of their own people and how they see their own future. And it is an important part of the ongoing historical movement that Georgia’s independence is part of to reinforce that fundamental human right to one’s own destiny.
And, therefore, no country should be told what they can or cannot do by any other country. And that is just the world we live in today. And, therefore, any claim otherwise has to be rejected out of hand. And it should be rejected not only by Georgians and Americans, but by all independent freedom-loving people around the world.
Why does the United States care about Georgia? Because, number one, we respect and honor the sacrifices that the Georgian people have made throughout a very long history of a lot of very difficult challenges. The resilience and resolve of the Georgian people has come through time and time again. The Rose Revolution inspired Americans. It was an uprising that was very much in keeping with our own founding ideals. We just celebrated the 234th anniversary of our declaration of independence. We had to conduct a revolutionary war against then our colonial power. You did it much more peacefully, all things said and done, and we admire that.
But we also believe that you have a right to your own destiny. You have a right to your own freedom. We take seriously our founding ideals. Now, like any country, we sometimes fall short of our own values. But that doesn’t mean we care about them any less, that we don’t hold them up and stand for them any less. It means that we, too, have work to do.
So, we admire what Georgia has accomplished, and we are Georgia’s friend. We are Georgia’s partner. We are Georgia’s supporter in both word and deed, because we want to see Georgia’s independence and territorial integrity, democracy, and prosperity succeed.

QUESTION: Mary Beth Sheridan from the Washington Post. I had a question for both leaders. Georgian officials, on many occasions, have raised their concerns about what they say is great difficulty, or a de facto restriction on buying arms from the United States. So I just wondered if both of you could describe what is the situation now, in terms of selling arms to Georgia.
And a second question for President Saakashvili. What, in your opinion, has been the impact of the reset of relations between the U.S. and Russia? Do you believe that reset compromises Georgian security? Did you get any fresh assurances today? Thank you.
PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Well, on — related to the first issue, I mean, we have very good security cooperation with the United States. As you know, we are cooperating in Afghanistan. We cooperate in Iraq. But we also cooperate on the ground here. And that has (inaudible). I myself spoke to General Petraeus, who told me that Georgia soldiers are among the best ones he had on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. And not only he told it to me, but he wrote about it to the U.S. President. So we have quite influential allies among the U.S. military, and good example of cooperation.
Now, it’s a process. It’s a process, and it’s a step-by-step approach. And so far, we have been going through that process. It has been productive. We have been happy. And, obviously, the — it requires time. We are talking about a very comprehensive process. But, you know, there was no — nothing to complain about, in terms of policy, on the U.S. side. And that I can clearly (inaudible) any speculations over that issue.
Now, with regard to reset, obviously it’s a clear issue that, you know, we — there were questions asked in the beginning, when reset was mentioned. There is no secret about it. Of course some people got worried what it might mean, what it may mean. But what we see now is that — exactly the right way. What I see the right way is that, you know, it’s not just changing relations with Russia at the expense of the others. On the contrary, it’s exactly things based on values. It’s value-based policy.
And that’s why we all love America. That’s why my people love America. That’s why people in the world — democratic people all around the world and their leaders love America, because this is the — almost the only country in the world — there are many other friends we have — but where no political — nobody from political class — I’m not talking about leadership — any administration, at least since the time I have been watching politics, have ever compromised basic values in expense of so-called political expedience and pragmatic politics. And for small countries, it’s absolutely essential.

When Secretary Clinton mentions occupation words, it resonates with almost 500,000 people that cannot go back to their houses, not because they are taken by somebody else, but because they are held by occupying troops. But, you know, America was the first one to mention this word. And now the others are following. President Obama was the first one to call a spade a spade, basically, to say it was an invasion. Because before, as you remember, the term “disproportionate use of force” was used, as if there is a proportionate use to, you know, occupy other countries’ territory. President Obama was the first one to use the term.
And I think the statements coming from Washington, they’re better — the higher (inaudible) agenda gets, the higher the Georgian issue got on the agenda. I was very pleased by that. The visit of Secretary is good testimony to that. And, you know, ultimately, if it leads to more modern, more open Russia, that’s only good for all of us around it. We will benefit from more liberal, more open, more modernized Russia, as well as we certainly suffered a lot from Russian (inaudible), that this has all these domestic issues, and that’s having (inaudible) trouble with its own people, but also with its own laborers.
And, from that point of view, if ultimate goal is (inaudible), as I believe it is, then we can only benefit from it. And, you know, I congratulate you there very strongly, Secretary. We support the policy. We believe it is already producing the results — maybe not immediate one for people like, you know, we have my press secretary here, who is (inaudible), he can no longer go back to, like, 80 percent of (inaudible). Most of the refugees from (inaudible). We have minister of economy here, who has (inaudible) together with her family from (inaudible). She was 11 years old, long time ago. And, you know, the point — these people cannot go back. They would like to. Houses are empty. And only because there are troops they can’t go back.

(Inaudible?) Of course it will take time. On the other hand, results (inaudible). Yes, I think the result is bringing at least minimum sense of security and (inaudible) for my country. And that is very essential for us to get time to develop, to do all these construction projects, to grow the economy, to make people better educated, get better chances in life. And, ultimately, basically, solve the other issues. Hopefully much sooner than that, but you know any good direction (inaudible). And I think I see no alternative to that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I can’t add anything to that. That was extremely well said, as the president often is. Thank you.
PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Thank you so much. I am very flattered, that Secretary Clinton would say that. Thank you. Next time you need speaker on other (inaudible) issues, I am there as well.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We’re going to go to the bridge. Good, good.

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Here are some photos of the Secretary of State landing in Tiblisi earlier today.  Is it my imagination, or is there a quiet international competition to present her with the largest bouquet?  If they get any bigger, she’ll need a basket to carry them!  These roses are beautiful, though, for a beautiful lady!

Georgia’s Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze

With FM Vashadze and U.S. ambassador to Georgia John Bass

Meeting Georgia’s President President Mikheil Saakashvili

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