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U.S. Official To Visit Tbilisi For 'Allies' Conference


Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Philip Reeker (file photo)

Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs at the U.S. State Department, is scheduled to arrive in Georgia on September 6 to take part in the 2019 Tbilisi International Conference.

He is expected to join "regional security experts, Georgian policymakers, civil society activists, and the business community to discuss issues affecting Georgia's democratic progress and transatlantic aspirations, and reinforce U.S. support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," a September 5 State Department statement said.

The event -- which organizers have described in the past as bringing together "our key democratic allies" -- comes with Georgia in the midst of a government reshuffle under the ruling Georgian Dream party, led by billionaire businessman and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Weeks of street protests have targeted officials including the pick for new prime minister, Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia, for their roles in a crackdown that left hundreds injured when an angry crowd tried to storm parliament after word leaked that a visiting Russian lawmaker had sat in the parliamentary speaker's seat on June 20.

Reeker is reportedly scheduled to meet with senior Georgian government officials, lawmakers, and members of civil society groups.

The annual Tbilisi conference is aimed at keeping “Georgia high on the transatlantic agenda and on track in its democratic progress,” according to Georgian-based Economic Policy Research Center, one of the event’s organizers.

The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University is the other host group.

Reeker will stop in Munich on September 6 before heading to Tbilisi and meet with colleagues at the U.S. Consulate General.

The White House said this week that U.S. President Donald Trump intended to nominate career diplomat Kelly Degnan as the new U.S. ambassador to Georgia, a post that has been vacant for nearly a year and a half.

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