US Secretary of State Pompeo coming to Tbilisi – what is expected from his visit?
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will arrive in Georgia November 17-18 as part of a planned visit to seven countries. He will come to Tbilisi after France and Turkey.
The visit coincides with a rather tense situation in Georgia – street rallies that have not stopped since the parliamentary elections on October 31. The opposition claims that the elections were rigged and does not recognize their results.
All seven opposition parties that won parliamentary seats have rejected them and are pushing for new parliamentary elections.
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The government announced that it does not agree with the demands and will not make concessions.
The process has spread to the streets and tensions are mounting – on November 8, the police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse a peaceful opposition rally.
The political crisis in Georgia is exacerbated by the dramatic changes that have taken place in the region around Nagorno-Karabakh.
Against the backdrop of all this, the news of the visit of a high-ranking American official aroused great interest in Georgia.
Why is Pompeo coming?
The US Secretary of State will meet with President Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia and Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani to ‘express support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and call for further progress on democratic reforms,’ the State Department said in a statement.
The US Secretary of State will also meet with Catholicos-Patriarch Elijah II.
The State Department said that Pompeo had no plans to meet with members of the opposition..
What politicians and experts expect from the visit
The expectations are different in different political camps.
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said that Pompeo’s visit confirms that the strategic partnership between Georgia and the United States has “reached a level never seen before in history,” and the Georgian government is preparing for this visit.
The opposition believes that one of the main topics of Pompeo’s visit will be the October 31 elections.
“When such a high-ranking diplomat arrives in a country, it means that he has specific messages – especially against the backdrop of the worst political crisis in the country. Naturally, he will talk about the October 31 elections, ”said Zaal Udumashvili, a member of the leading opposition party United National Movement.
However, Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani considers the suggestion that Pompeo is going to criticize the Georgian authorities as frivolous.
“The main message here is that the United States supports Georgia and its stable development, its role as one of the leaders in the region,” Zalkaliani said.
The difficult situation in the region as the reason for the visit
Georgian experts and politicians suggest that the visit of the US Secretary of State is to a large extent connected with the sharply complicated situation in the region and with the role of Georgia in this context.
“Georgia should use this situation to raise the issue of NATO membership again,” said Giorgi Kandelaki, secretary of the opposition party European Georgia.
Expert Gia Khukhashvili also believes that the visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is caused by a change in the balance of power in the region after the Karabakh battles, the conclusion of a trilateral agreement (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia) and the subsequent protests in Armenia.
“Serious events are taking place in the Caucasus, which worries America as a global player,” Khukhashvili said.
More than a year ago – on June 11, 2019 – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze in Washington. After that meeting, he made several important statements regarding the state of democracy in Georgia and, in particular, the frozen port project in Anaklia, in which large American investments have been made.
Pompeo said then that the United States supports the reform of the judicial system in Georgia and the holding of free and fair elections. He also expressed hope that the problems around the port project in Anaklia will be resolved.