Mr. Speaker, as co-chair of the Georgia Caucus, I would like to take a moment to thank Ambassador Archil Gegeshidze for his dedication to developing a deep and meaningful U.S.-Georgia partnership. His Excellency Gegeshidze was appointed as the Ambassador of Georgia to the United States in March 2013. Since that time, he has served his country faithfully and worked tirelessly to improve Tbilisi’s relationship with Washington.

Georgia sits in a region full of dictators, but it remains a stalwart beacon of democracy. It is on the basis of democracy and freedom for all that Ambassador Gegeshidze has worked to strengthen Georgia’s ties with the United States. While there is still work to be done, with the Ambassador’s help, Georgia has made significant strides ensuring freedom of the press, preventing corruption, and pursuing a free market system. Throughout Ambassador Gegeshidze’s appointment in the U.S., he has shown time and time again that Georgians share the same values as Americans.

Georgian soldiers forged a strong bond with American soldiers as they fought alongside each other on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Georgians have also helped facilitate the growth of American law firms, colleges, energy and IT companies in their country. Our peoples’ mutual dedication to being forces for good in the international community shines through in all aspects of our relationship.

I am proud of the way Ambassador Gegeshidze has represented the Georgian people here in America and worked to achieve our shared strategic goals. Together Georgians and Americans alike must continue the good work of the Ambassador. Given Russia’s aggression in the region, we must continue to press for Georgia’s membership in NATO.

Also, in light of the increased trade between our two countries, it would be a smart move to start negotiations on a U.S-Georgia free trade agreement. Thanks to the efforts of Ambassador Gegeshidze, the bond between Georgia and the United States is strong. He will be greatly missed, but he leaves Washington with a robust U.S.-Georgia partnership in place for his successor.

And that’s just the way it is.