Prime Minister’s Speech at Georgia Defense and Security Conference Print Version

2018-11-01

Greetings, Ladies and gentlemen!
I welcome the President of Georgia, the Defense Minister, and the authorities of the Autonomous Republic, our colleagues, guests, and representatives of the diplomatic corps.
Welcome to Georgia!
I would like to thank all of you, our country's partners and loyal friends, for supporting Georgia. Your strong and consistent position on our country is decisive on the path to democratic development and the country's building.
We believe that the Georgia Defense and Security Conference is a unique regional forum bringing together, over the past 12 years, high-level guests from many countries of the world. It is especially important to us that the conference's participants include senior officials, defense and security experts, and representatives of civil society, media outlets, and academic communities, which makes this forum even more exciting and diverse.
I believe that the issues to be discussed at today's conference are very relevant, as they address the latest developments around the globe. The challenges facing Euro-Atlantic security, defense, and regional stability will be the key topics of our discussion. At the same time, I strongly believe that we will make a forecast and define ways to overcome these challenges.
In addition, forums of this type directly offer us the best direct opportunities to inform our partners about our country's significant defense and security progress, something that draws Georgia even closer to NATO and the EU. It is my pleasure to announce that the standards currently achieved by us-spending 2 percent of national GDP on defense and as much as 20 percent of defense spending on major equipment purchases-are in line with NATO requirements. At the same time, we have initiatives seeking to ensure a high level of interoperability and to enhance the readiness and resilience of both NATO and partner countries, and to empower NATO in general. We strongly believe that Georgia's alignment with NATO guarantees peace and security in the country and is a vitally important factor in the stable development of our country and our region as a whole.
I absolutely must emphasize Georgia's contribution to global security, especially the exceptional service of our troops that has made a name for Georgian soldiers as fearless and selfless fighters. Unfortunately, hero Georgian soldiers have fallen in the fight for peace in the world. I would like to honor their memory. I also wish a speedy recovery to our service members wounded in international missions.
Today, under the Resolute Support Mission, 870 Georgian soldiers stand shoulder to shoulder with NATO troops in the fight against the greatest challenge of international terrorism, while also serving under the aegis of the EU in the Central African Republic and Mali. Importantly, this conference will discuss both global and Georgia's security, the state of affairs and trends, in particular in the context of the South Caucasus and the Black Sea. Of course, we must discuss the challenges facing regional security which, above all else, involves the ongoing occupation of Georgia's territories by the Russian Federation, the annexation of Crimea, and the ongoing occupation of Eastern Ukraine, alongside mechanisms of hybrid influence and other risks.
From this platform, I would like to reiterate today the topic of Georgia's occupation as our country's most serious challenge. Today, 10 years after the military intervention, we see what I call the most calamitous humanitarian disaster in the occupied territories. Because of the region's growing militarization, depopulation grows stronger, and the population is decreasing drastically. The most grievous humanitarian, socioeconomic, and human rights conditions persist.
Barbed wires split entire families and violate basic human rights. Kidnapping, inhuman and cruel treatment, torture and murder continue.
Russia has yet to fulfil the 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, while Georgia has not only fulfilled it to the letter but has also assumed the obligation of non-use of force.
I would like to underline that occupation and blatant violations of the law, the grievous security situation, growing militarization, the occupant's increasingly frequent military trainings, and uncontrolled supply of weapons undermines not only Georgia's but also the wider region's stability and security.
In addition, I would like to state with all assuredness that our only response to this challenge is peace and Georgia's development and irreversible Euro-Atlantic integration.
The Georgian Government has developed a new peace initiative, A Step to a Better Future, which seeks to improve the humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions in the regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, to create a new economic system for our citizens residing in the occupied territories, also to encourage contact and restore relations between those living along the occupation lines.
The support of the international community in the peaceful resolution of the Russia-Georgia conflict is just as vitally important. The international community must be unanimous and principled in guarding the principle of the freedom of sovereign states and the inviolability of internationally recognized borders, because protecting the fundamental norms of international law and respect for human rights is the only path to ensure peace and security in the world.
This is exactly why it is of special important to adopt the principle of Total Defense to ensure security in the countries like Georgia. Today's conference offers us an opportunity once again to discuss this principle, to coordinate our positions before making a final decision, which is so crucially important to our country.
I avail myself of this opportunity to thank the Jamestown Foundation, a US-based institute for research, also the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, the Munich Security Conference, and the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies.
The progress we have achieved in terms of NATO integration in the recent years is unique, indeed. I would like to express immense gratitude to our friends for their strong support. In addition, I would like to single out the series of great successes we have achieved in the recent years together with our strategic partner, the United States of America, and I would like to comment on the recent visit by Mr. John Bolton a few days back. I believe that this visit, and the intensifying high-level visits, will further help us advance our relations to a new level. Naturally, security and defense will be the key aspects of these relations.
In conclusion, allow me to inform you that, a few days ago, I received a letter from the US Secretary of Defense, in which General Mattis thanks us for our commitment to defense reforms. The letter emphasizes our Government's dedication to the readiness and modernization of Georgia's armed forces, which should be largely credited to the Defense Ministry of Georgia. I would like once again to thank our colleagues at the Defense Ministry and personally the Minister for this considerable progress and the fundamental reforms we have succeeded to carry out in this institution. This letter reaffirms our success in this field. Accordingly, allow me to quote the letter: "Georgia has proven itself one of NATO's most steadfast partners."
Please accept my sincere wishes for productive work. Thank you very much.