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US restricts visas for Georgia and reviews bilateral cooperation over 'foreign agent' bill

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US restricts visas for Georgia and reviews bilateral cooperation over 'foreign agent' bill

YEREVAN, MAY 24, ARMENPRESS. The United States will impose visa restrictions and review relations with Georgia over a controversial “foreign influence” law that has sparked mass protests in the country.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the law “wouldstifle the exercise of freedoms of association and expression, stigmatize organizations that serve the citizens of Georgia, and impede independent media organizations working to provide Georgians with access to high quality information.” Blinken also criticized the way Georgian authorities dealt with the protests.

“In response to these actions, theDepartment of Stateisimplementing a new visa restriction policy for Georgia that will apply to individuals who are responsible for or complicit in undermining democracy in Georgia, as well as their family members.This includes individuals responsible for suppressing civil society and freedom of peaceful assembly in Georgia through a campaign of violence or intimidation,” his statement reads.

Besides, Blinken announced that the State Department is launching “a comprehensive review of bilateral cooperation between the United States and Georgia.”

“It remains our hope that Georgia’s leaders will reconsider the draft law and take steps to move forward with their nation’s democratic and Euro-Atlantic aspirations. As we review the relationship between our two countries, we will take into account Georgia’s actions in deciding our own,” Blinken concluded.

The bill requires NGOs and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as bodies "pursuing the interests of a foreign power." The ruling Georgian Dream party insists it is committed to joining the EU and was acting to increase transparency on NGO funding.

Georgian lawmakers passed the law despite major protests, with critics saying the move would silence opposition groups and shift the former Soviet republic away from a pro-Western course back toward Russia.

President Salome Zurabishvili vetoed the law last week but lawmakers have the votes to override her.

AREMNPRESS

Armenia, Yerevan, 0002, Martiros Saryan 22

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