SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. It’s an enormous pleasure for me to welcome President Saakashvili of Georgia. We are good friends, well acquainted. I spent time with him in Georgia, and we met elsewhere – New York and here in Washington over the years.
We are very grateful in the United States for the assistance that Georgia has given us with respect to Afghanistan. Georgia is the largest contributor of troops of a non-NATO country. And they have also made significant commitments with respect to post-2014.
Just as importantly, we are very supportive of Georgia’s aspirations with respect to NATO and Europe. And we applaud the democratic transition that has been taking place. The President engaged in the first peaceful election transfer of power, and I know is committed to continue the work for the democratic aspirations of the Rose Revolution.
And so we look forward to having a good conversation, but I’m particularly happy to welcome him today. I know his term is up this fall. I’ll be anxious to talk to him about the future. But the democratic transition in Georgia is vital, it’s important, and we’re grateful to everybody’s efforts to keep that on track. So, welcome.
PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. It’s a great thrill to see you in that office. I think they’re incredibly lucky to have you as Secretary. And we were lucky to have you in Georgia at the (inaudible) moment of our history when Georgia was attacked. And you were the first one to come to our rescue. And you came to Georgia at a very difficult moment, a dangerous moment for you physically and personally, but you – basically you braved it and you came. And we will never forget, as well as we’ll never forget your great struggle at the U.S. Congress as a senator and head of the committee, for democracy, freedom, rights of minorities all over the world. That’s something that really shows the best of American moral stance.
And of course we are here to talk about NATO. We want American support for NATO. We want America’s support of further (inaudible) integration at this very difficult and crucial moment for Georgia’s democracy and Georgia’s survival.
And certainly we want to see America strong. And I think instrumental in that is having you in this office as well, with your experience, with your international (inaudible) contacts, because we have admired you for all these years as a senator, a great friend, as a really knowledgeable person on all these matters. And I think it’s really incredibly important at this very difficult moment of the world’s history to have you here, and we’ll do our best to work with you as allies, as friends, and as admirers.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. (Inaudible.)
We were mentioning earlier he broke his shoulder riding a bike and I broke my clavicle, so we – (laughter).
PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: You see, some people were criticizing me for biking it, but (inaudible) these are the people who broke their (inaudible) on the bike, headed by Secretary General of NATO. So I’m in a good club. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: That’s a good one. Thank you.
Cross posted from State.gov