Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to the Media at the Field Epidemiology Program Graduation

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Question about the event

Ambassador Degnan: This is a very important date: to be part of the graduation of the first cohort of field epidemiologists. This is an opportunity to bring together regional public health experts to develop their expertise in identifying potential diseases that could affect all of our societies. This brought together public health experts from Georgia, Armenia, Moldova and Azerbaijan to share their experiences, train together and build a network of experts who will help make societies in this region safer. We have seen over the past two and a half years how vital this type of collaboration and information sharing is and how important it is to have the skills needed to protect our societies against these types of diseases that can spread in so many different ways. So it was a very successful event, and it was wonderful to see graduates today who are going to come out and help make their society safer.

Ambassador Degnan: Before answering further questions, I would like to highlight the message from senior officials in Washington strongly condemning Mr. Lukashenko’s visit to occupied Abkhazia yesterday. The United States stands firmly with the people of Georgia, whose political leaders from all walks of life have spoken out against this unacceptable visit that violates international law. It is particularly painful, and I would say shocking, that this visit took place the day after we celebrated the 29th anniversary of the fall of Sukhumi. Personally, and many others, I laid a wreath to honor the memory of all those who died during the war in Abkhazia. The United States firmly supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within internationally recognized borders, and we will continue to work for the peaceful restoration of the occupied territories and for peace throughout this region.

Question about a news report claiming that Georgia rejected an offer of American defense equipment

Ambassador Degnan: The recent claim regarding an alleged supply of new defensive equipment to Georgia is factually inaccurate. We have asked all our partners around the world to do whatever is necessary to support Ukraine against Putin’s brutal war. It is because Ukraine is fighting for its freedom, for its sovereignty: it is fighting for its independence and its freedom as a nation. We have been very clear from the beginning that it is up to each nation to decide what it can do to help Ukraine. We have also been very clear, including with Georgian government officials, that we have never asked Georgia to open a second front. We never pressured Georgia to get involved in this war. The United States does not want Georgia involved in this war – or any other country. We are doing everything we can, and we have been doing for almost a year, to prevent this war from breaking out, to stop it as soon as possible, so that we can restore peace and stability in the region. This is what the United States is working for: peace and security.

Question about the increase of Russians in Georgia

Ambassador Degnan: It’s a very complicated question, and it’s really up to the Georgian government to define the policy in this area. You see that different countries take different measures depending on their situation. It will be up to the Georgian government to decide how best to solve this problem, trying to balance security concerns, which are above all else, as well as trying to support those fleeing repression and war in Russia and Ukraine.

Question about deoligarchization

Ambassador Degnan: Deoligarchisation is one of the 12 priorities listed by the European Commission because of its very significant impact on society. Addressing the other 11 priorities will have a big impact on reducing, if not eliminating, the undue influence of anyone – any funding or anyone – who tries to influence the economic, political or social fabric here. Addressing undue influence in political processes is what deoligarchization is all about. Therefore, if other priorities are dealt with in a truly effective way, I believe that the risk of undue influence will be eliminated, and certainly reduced.

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