Following a plenary session of Strategic Partnership Commission in Batumi earlier this month, the U.S. and Georgia released a joint statement on June 14 summarizing results of talks in all four working groups covering priority areas outlined in the bilateral strategic partnership charter.
The joint statement provides some additional information about new areas of defense cooperation, which was announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to Batumi on June 5.
“We discussed options to help Georgia develop its air surveillance and air defense and coastal surveillance capabilities as well as defensive combat engineer capabilities, improve leadership and training skills of its non-commissioned officers, advance the command and control abilities of its brigade headquarters, and prepare to upgrade its utility helicopter fleet,” the statement reads.
“As we move from analysis and evaluation to implementation in the coming months, the United States will consider requests from Georgia to procure defensive articles and services to complement this training and assistance,” it says.
Other three priorities outlined in the 2009 U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Charter are democracy; trade and economy; people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges.
The democracy and governance working group, according to the joint statement, “reaffirmed the importance of an open and competitive electoral environment, including a level playing field, open debate, and citizens’ access to a wide range of information” ahead of the parliamentary elections this October and presidential elections next year. The U.S. “emphasized” how elections provide Georgia with an opportunity to strengthen its democratic culture “which will bring Georgia closer to achieving its Euro-Atlantic aspirations.” It also says that the U.S. “recognized Georgia’s progress in protecting minority rights.”
The economic, energy, and trade working group discussed the outcome of the May 29 high-level trade and investment dialogue, “which discussed a range of options to improve bilateral trade, including the possibility of a free trade agreement.” “This dialogue is a win-win for the United States and Georgia as we continue to identify opportunities for businesses to invest in Georgia,” the statement reads.
The people-to-people working group discussed ways Georgia “can reach out to the people of its occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions.” In this context the U.S. reiterated that it would “soon” accept Georgia’s status neutral travel document for residents of both these regions who choose to use them.