PRIME MINISTER GAKHARIA:  So Mr. Secretary, welcome.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER GAKHARIA:  Thank you for finding time (inaudible) especially this very difficult global pandemic time.  You are a true friend of this country, and of course we are grateful for your personal and the United States (inaudible) partnership.  This is the most important partnership of this country, and of course we are thankful most of all for United States support combating COVID-19.  (Inaudible) we have very successful story of cooperation, and I mean (inaudible), which is the key response (inaudible) of COVID-19.

So first of all, I would like to underline that we really appreciate the United States and government support – continued support of territorial sovereignty of Georgia.  You know how it’s important for your country for occupied, right, occupation forces on our soil.  We know that the – our strategic partnership is based first of all on values – freedom, democracy, and of course shared geostrategic interests.  And in this very turbulent time in the region, we understand that we have to discuss and this is the great opportunity for us to discuss very important things (inaudible)  deepening the cooperation between United States and Georgia in defense, security, economy, and consolidating democracy.  And I would like to assure you that we feel that this is the great moment to – for enhancing our cooperation, for enhanced partnership of our countries and enhanced presence of the United States in this region.

So welcome once again, and we are very thankful that you find the time to visit.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister.  It’s great to be here with many important topics to discuss today.  Your point is well taken, too – the world and certainly Georgia in the middle of a deadly challenge from this virus that was released from China.  We will address this together, keep our people safe.  We’ll get our economies back up and going again.  This is central for the prosperity of our – of your country and of the region and of the world.

We’ve been great friends almost 30 years on for your democracy.  We’ve worked together all of this time.  We recognize the pain and difficulty connected to the occupation of your country, and know that we want to do everything we can to support your democratic process, the building out of the institutions – one of which I’m honored to be at today – and develop these institutions in ways that are important, with free and fair elections and all of the things that come with robust debate and democracy.  And I thank you for hosting me here today.  I appreciate it.  It’s good to see you.

PRIME MINISTER GAKHARIA:  Thank you.

 

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