John Kerry promises more US military support for Georgia

John Kerry and Giorgi Kvirikashvili signed a Memorandum on Deepening the Defense and Security Partnership between the US and Georgia. Photo by PM’s press office, 06 Jul 2016 - 17:33, Tbilisi,Georgia

United States (US) Secretary of State John Kerry has promised America will help Georgia strengthen the country’s ability to defend itself.

Today Kerry and Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili signed a Memorandum on Deepening the Defense and Security Partnership between the US and Georgia.

Deeper military cooperation 

The US Secretary of State said the document meant greater military and security cooperation, enhanced information sharing and help with building defence capacity such as improving combat readiness and supporting defence procurement.

Kerry is in Tbilisi for his first official visit as Secretary of State. He has visited Georgia once before in another capacity.

Talking at a joint press conference with Kvirikashvili, Kerry said he had a message to deliver from US President Barack Obama to the people and Government of Georgia.

"The United States stands firm in its commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders” said Kerry.

He added the US wanted Georgia to be free to make its own choices on foreign and security policy, "free from external pressure and coercion”.

Describing Georgia, Kerry said: "This is a beautiful and democratic country [located] in a challenging neighbourhood.”

He then complemented Georgian food and wine and stressed the country’s "legendary hospitality”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Georgia's Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. Photo by PM's press office

On his part, Kvirikashvili stressed the importance of Kerry’s visit.

"The visit of the US State Secretary to Georgia is yet another clear demonstration of the active top-level strategic cooperation and partnership between our two countries,” he said.
"In addition, Mr Kerry’s visit ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw exemplifies support for Georgia on its path to NATO integration.”

The PM said today’s meeting had brought tangible results in terms of deepening bilateral cooperation, and he stressing the signature of today’s memorandum was "very important”.

"The memorandum creates an overarching framework for the enhanced bilateral defence and security partnership aimed at enhancing Georgia’s abilities for self-defence and resilience. These areas are key to Georgia’s security and long-term force sustainability, including through defensive weaponry acquisition, and support for the full readiness of its armed forces.”

More Georgians will study in US

The two officials also agreed on greater cooperation in education. They signed a memorandum on educational cooperation through the Fulbright Program.

The memorandum extended the Fulbright Academic Exchange Program, enabling more Georgian students (an increase from five to 12) to engage in study and research activities in the US educational institutions.

Kvirikashvili said with Kerry he also discussed in detail the progress achieved in consolidating democracy and developing economy in Georgia.

"The importance of US engagement and support to this end was emphasized,” he said.

Kerry noted the US support for Georgia amounted to about $4.5 billion USD as of today.

October 8: Important date for Georgia

The Secretary of State also stressed the importance of ensuring a free, transparent, and peaceful election in Georgia this fall, saying October 8, the election date, would be another litmus test for Georgia.

"We respect the reforms that you have been instituting, the efforts you are making to make sure your election is as fair and accountable and transparent as possible," he told Kvirikashvili.

The PM in return expressed his commitment to host a democratic election and pointed out the engagement of American organisations and monitoring missions in this process.