Civil Georgia, Georgia
April 30 2005

Joint Commission to Study Armenian-Georgian Church Row


Armenian and Georgian sides have agreed to set up a joint
commission to study historic background of those churches in Georgia,
which are disputed by the Georgian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic
Churches.

An agreement was reached during the meeting of visiting Armenian
Parliamentary Chairman Artur Bagdasarian with Patriarch of the
Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II in Tbilisi on April 29.

Armenian Apostolic Church claims ownership over 9 churches in
Georgia, which are currently under the Georgian Orthodox Church's
control. Moreover, the Armenian side accused the Georgian Orthodox
Church of `appropriation of the Armenian spiritual heritage' by
replacing Armenian tombstones with faked ones with the Georgian
script on them in the yards of the Armenian churches.

The Georgian Orthodox Church also puts similar claims forward. `We
have complains as well, for example, in respect of the Georgian
churches located in Javakheti [region in southern Georgia, which is
predominately populated by the ethnic Armenians],' Zurab
Tskhovrebadze, an official representative of the Georgian Orthodox
Church, told Civil Georgia on April 30. He added that the joint
commission will consider all of these disputed issues.

According to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Armenian service,
this issue was pushed forwards by the Armenian authorities during the
visit of Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli in Yerevan in March.
But Nogaideli said after talks with the Armenian officials that the
sides agreed to let the two churches try to solve the problems before
deciding whether they should intervene.