In a recent speech to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the O-S-C-E, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell urged support for Georgia’s new leaders. Mr. Powell said the U.S. “looks forward to working with the interim Georgian government to ensure that new elections take place in accordance with the constitution.” The U.S. expects the upcoming elections to be “free and fair,” he said. “O-S-C-E must take an active role in supporting and observing the elections to help ensure that the Georgian people have the opportunity to choose their leaders honestly.”
Secretary of State Powell also said that separatists in such areas as South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Adzhara should not be allowed to threaten Georgia’s stability:
“The international community should do everything possible to support Georgia’s territorial integrity throughout and beyond the election process. No support should be given to breakaway elements seeking to weaken Georgia’s territorial integrity.”
Allegations of voting fraud following the November 2nd parliamentary elections sent thousands of demonstrators into the streets of Georgia’s cities. The decision of President Eduard Shevardnadze to resign brought a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Interim president Nino Burjanadze has promised to hold new elections on January 4th. These elections are critical to strengthening Georgia’s democratic institutions. The U.S. has long supported democratic reforms in Georgia. The U.S. and other O-S-C-E countries plan to help cover the costs of the upcoming vote.
Ultimately, it will be up to the people of Georgia to make sure the new elections are free and fair. The U.S. stands ready to help them do so. And the U.S. hopes that other nations will join in that effort.