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On February 2 2007, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Gela Bezhuashvili and Ambassador of the United States of America to Georgia, John F. Tefft signed "Joint Document of U.S and Georgian delegations on Georgia’s Priority Needs to Improve Its Capabilities to Combat Nuclear Smuggling”.

The Agreement envisages equipping Georgia’s respective state agencies working on the issue of nuclear and radiation security with modern technology, information-sharing between the US and Georgian services, training of Georgian experts and other activities.

The signing of the Joint Document in the sphere of nuclear non-proliferation is another proof of Georgian-American cooperation aimed to improve effectiveness of Georgia’s border and customs services as well as other respective agencies in combating nuclear smuggling and strengthening peace and security in the region.

Following the signature ceremony, the sides held a joint briefing.

Mr. Gela Bezhuashvili:

Your Excellency,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is both honor and pleasure to welcome our distinguished guests and express sincere gratitude and deep appreciation to the American side for the significant assistance aimed at improving Georgia’s anti-nuclear smuggling capabilities. Let me emphasize, that today’s ceremony is a result of considerable work done by our American friends together with the Georgian experts.

The document signed today is another clear evidence of fruitful cooperation between the American and the Georgian sides in the field of non-proliferation of WMD related materials.

We welcome such interaction and invite all countries, our neighbours in particular, to move to this level of cooperation. 

At this stage it is obvious that proliferation has become one of the major challenges to the international security. Despite the substantial progress achieved, we are still facing certain difficulties due to such reasons as possible existence of abandoned radioactive sources on our territory. Another extremely serious challenge is a transit of these dangerous materials. Therefore, there still is a need for assistance aimed at the increasing the effectiveness of border and customs structures of Georgia.

It must be mentioned that the Georgian central authorities are still unable to exercise control on the territories of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia that seriously increases the risk of use of these territories for nuclear smuggling.

You are all well informed on the recent facts, which we try to counteract through our interaction and effective cooperation that will help us in fighting against smuggling practices.

The establishment of effective control is one of the main preconditions for prevention of the proliferation of nuclear materials. I believe that our common efforts will contribute tremendously to the increasing of necessary capabilities of corresponding Georgian agencies.

Once again, let me express our sincere gratitude and deep appreciation to the United States. I wish to say a word of thanks to those people, both from the US and Georgian sides, who have been engaged in elaboration of this document for several months. This document provides a good basis for developing interaction in the field of preventing nuclear smuggling practices.

Mr. John Tefft:

Mr. Minister, thank you very much, thank you to your staff who negotiated and worked out this agreement with us. I agree with you this is an important day. We have had good cooperation between the US and Georgia. This agreement provides for the opportunity to take our cooperation to another level. This is the part of US and Georgia working closely together, but this is the part of the larger global effort to fight the smuggling of nuclear material and to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. And now I speak for all our colleagues of the Embassy saying we are looking forward to continuing the work with you and other agencies of the Georgian government responsible. As an indication of importance with which Washington attaches this Agreement, Ambassador Michael Stafford who is in charge of these issues and negotiates this agreement here has flown from Washington today to be with us and I ask him to say a few words.

Mr. Michael Stafford:

Thank you Ambassador Teft,  I am pleased to be here in this beautiful city once again on this beautiful day   to participate in the signing ceremony for this very important document.

I am also very pleased to see a number of colleagues from the Georgian Government who work so effectively with the US team over the last seven months to develop this document. I particularly like to recognize Mr. Alexandre Maisuradze who ably led the Georgian side in the discussions. I also want to recognize Stacy Blow from the US Embassy, who very effectively coordinated discussions between Washington and Tbilisi when we were putting the final polishing touches on this document.

Conclusion of this document represents a crucial milestone in the cooperative efforts of the U.S. and Georgian governments to battle the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Today, we demonstrate our joint commitment to the plan of action comprised by this document, one that involves dozens of steps that our two governments will take individually and together to combat illicit trafficking in nuclear or radioactive materials either through or within the territory of Georgia.

From this day forward, our two governments will embark upon parallel paths toward realization of our commitments.  Georgia will begin to implement the agreed steps that it is capable of undertaking on its own, while the U.S. will begin to seek donors from among U.S. programs and international providers to support those agreed steps for which Georgia needs assistance.

In fact, the U.S. portion of the effort begins today.  I have with me the fact sheets that we will use in soliciting donors, and I will hold my first meeting with the representative of a prospective donor country later this afternoon.

As we proceed down our respective paths, the U.S. government intends to continue to collaborate closely with the Georgian government.  We will report regularly to our Georgian counterparts on our progress in securing assistance, and they have assured us that they will similarly report regularly on Georgian progress in implementing the agreed steps it can take on its own.

Georgian success in such implementation will not only be important in its own right; it will also reinforce our efforts to secure assistance, for donors are much more willing to help nations that demonstrate they are doing what they can to help themselves.

To date, the U.S. has engaged five countries in its effort to enhance international cooperation to combat nuclear smuggling, and our engagement with Georgia stands out.

No government has been more enthusiastic about this collaboration, and no government has worked harder to ensure the efficacy of the joint plan of action.

Given this record, we are confident that we will find our further collaboration with the Government of Georgia to be highly effective as we strive as partners to make Georgia a bulwark against the nuclear smuggling threat.

"Russia Today”:

Question: Mr. Bezhuashvili, does Georgia have the similar agreement with Russia  and if not do you intend to do so, especially, since that recent uranium smuggling scandal which came from Russia. And Mr. Ambassador what about the US. Does America have such an agreement with Russia too about it?  

Mr. Gela Bezhuashvili:

I’ve mentioned that these issues of international security need engagement, interaction and cooperation among all countries, but especially neighbours. So in this context the Government of Georgia is totally committed to the international efforts to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as hazardous materials. As speakers said Georgia has shown enthusiasm, has shown commitment to be part of the group of countries that aggressively stands against the proliferation. We wished to have the same kind of agreements with neighbours and that was my appeal that we need the same level of engagement and interaction with all neighbours, including Russia.

Mr. John Tefft:

We do have regular consultations with Russia about the proliferation threat. Under Secretary of States Bob Josef was recently in Moscow for a series of talks that included these issues. Yes, I agree with everything that the Minister has said about dealing with these issues on a global basis. 

Question: Is any preparatory work on track or were any consultations held envisaging concluding a similar agreement with Russia given the increasing urgency of this issue, especially against the background of the recent development of events?

Mr. Gela Bezhuashvili:

We have no such agreement but it does not prevent us from starting work on it. Over the last week I had several telephone conversations with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. My message was that we do not need to politicize this issue. It is in our interest and besides, this issue goes beyond the scope of Georgian-Russian bilateral relations. Rather, it is the matter of international security and therefore, we need a broader level of cooperation. According to the information available to me, the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office brought up a criminal action or renewed earlier proceedings instituted on this case. We hope this cooperation will continue on the level of General Prosecutors and Special Services.

Question: My question is for Mr. Ambassador. A reference was made to five CIS countries the United States is cooperating with. Could you specify the countries with which you already concluded or are going to enter into any such agreement?  

Mr. John Tefft:

You are correct, I’ve mentioned that we have engaged today five countries – Georgia is the third country with which we have concluded an agreement of this nature. The first two were Ukraine and Kazakhstan. We are in the process of engagement of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Going forward we plan to engage most of the other countries of the CIS, as well as countries that lie in regions where the smuggling threat is problem, which includes the Middle East and South Asia and few other countries in Africa and Eastern Europe.

BBC News:

Question:  Does the recently revealed case of uranium smuggling indicates that there is a wider problem with contraband nuclear material coming into Georgia through the breakaway regions from Russia.

Mr. Gela Bezhuashvili:

I need to say that the reason for the same level of interaction and engagement you are witnessing today. So, we wish to have such an engagement with all our neighbours. The territories you mentioned are a transit route for smuggling of hazardous materials is a worrisome fact. So, we need to do something, not only us, because it goes beyond Georgia’s security, rather, it is global security, it is international security. So we need to pay a close attention to it.

Question: And is this issue of smuggling the nuclear materials through the breakaway regions a major concern to the United States?

Mr. John Tefft:

I think that it is the concern.  We want to try to address this problem on a global basis. Georgia is an area where we obviously have seen cases of this and we want to continue working on this level.

Mr. Michael Stafford:

In our discussion between the US and Georgia delegation that lead up to the conclusion of this document we recognized this problem as one that needs to be addressed. A number of the steps in the Plan of Action we developed are designed to address this problem.

 

February 2, 2007

Department of the Press and Information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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