TBILISI, DFWatch – Hillary Clinton Tuesday morning kicked off her visit to Georgia by speaking at a conference of the U.S.-Georgia strategic partnership in Batumi.
The partnership was established in the wake of the Russo-Georgian war in 2008.
During the opening ceremony at the Radisson Hotel, the U.S. Secretary of State called on Georgia’s leaders to conduct a competitive election campaign.
In October, parliament elections are expected, although the exact date has not yet been set, and most candidates are not even announced. Clinton said both the parliamentary and presidential elections, which are expected in 2013, will be important to deepen democracy in the country and that elections should be conducted in a fair way. Not only Election Day should be fair, but also the period before the elections, she said.
She also underlined that more women should get involved in politics.
Democracy should be strengthened after the elections too, and labor rights require special attention, as well as court reform and freedom of the media, the Secretary said.
She remarked that Georgia has made important steps in regards of strengthening democracy after the rose revolution in 2003, but now what is required of Georgia is to consolidate democratic values.
Monday evening, Hillary Clinton arrived in Georgia as part of a tour of the South Caucasus, arriving from Armenia. Her tour continues Wednesday to Azerbaijan.
The Secretary of State paid attention to Georgia’s current economic reforms, saying that they have been well received by the international community in regards to business. The U.S. wants to help Georgia increase and strengthen economic opportunities for people, especially for women, minorities and for those who have been left behind by economic progress, she said.
Georgia’s contribution to NATO’s ISAF mission in Afghanistan was also brought up in the speech. Clinton said that there was agreement at NATO’s Chicago summit that Georgia has made large steps towards meeting NATO standards. She said the U.S. and Georgia have a strong bilateral cooperation in the defense sphere.
Once again, the Secretary of State said the U.S. does not accept the Russian occupation and calls on Russia to fulfill its obligations under the ceasefire agreement signed after the war in August 2008.
It is important to restore trust between parties in the conflict, she said. When she was finished, Georgian Prime Minister Davit Bakradze thanked her for supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Mrs Clinton is expected to meet with President Saakashvili after 16:00 today. She has already met with opposition leaders. Bidzina Ivanishvili was not among them. The formal leader of his Georgian Dream party explained that since Mr Ivanishvili is not a Georgian citizen, he is not allowed to be leader of the party, and therefore he couldn’t attend.