Civil Georgia, Georgia
Feb 12 2011

Saakashvili Speaks of 'United Caucasus' in Talks with Turkish FM

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 12 Feb.'11 / 23:50

President Saakashvili spoke about "the idea of creating united
Caucasus" at a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davuto─?lu,
in Tbilisi on February 12, the Georgian President's administration

It said that Saakashvili noted importance of "opened borders" in the region.

"Existence of the united Caucasus is my desire," Saakashvili said. "We
have shared this opinion with our Azerbaijani and Armenian friends."

"There is still a long road ahead before materialization of this idea,
but this a positive step forward," Saakashvili added, referring to a
decision to simplify border crossing between Turkey and Georgia.

The Georgian President's administration said that during the meeting
with the Turkish Foreign Minister it was agreed to simplify border
crossing staring from this May.

"It was decided to simplify border crossing between Georgia and Turkey
so that it will not even be required to leave a car," the Georgian
President's administration said.

Earlier on February 12, the Turkish Foreign Minister said at a news
conference after meeting with his Georgian counterpart, Grigol
Vashadze, that one-stop procedures would apply while crossing the

Before meeting with the Georgian leadership in Tbilisi on Saturday,
the Turkish Foreign Minister spent first day of his official visit to
Georgia on Friday in Batumi, main town of Adjara Autonomous Republic,
which borders with Turkey.

President Saakashvili told Ahmet Davuto─?lu, that Batumi had turned
into "an economic center not only for Georgia, but for the entire
Black Sea."

"Georgia should turn into a major economic link for the Central Asia
and Caspian region and for Turkey," Saakashvili said. "Turkey is not
only economically fast developing country, it has also turned into a
standard of innovations... The fact that we are opening borders is a
positive example for other countries of the region."

Restoring Sites of Historic Heritage

A potential deal between Tbilisi and Ankara on restoration of sites of
cultural heritage was among the issues raised during the meeting
between the Turkish and Georgian Foreign Ministers.

The deal, if signed, will pave the way for reconstruction of four
Georgian medieval monasteries, now located in north-east Turkey, in
exchange of rebuilding one mosque in Batumi and restoring of several
others. The issue has turned into a source of controversy in Georgia
as the influential Georgian Orthodox Church spoke out against the
potential agreement.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart, the
Georgian Foreign Minister expressed regret that the agreement was not
yet signed.

"I want to say that we have been late; we should have completed talks
earlier and in this case the cultural heritage, which simultaneously
belongs to Georgia and Turkey, would have been in better condition,'
Grigol Vashadze said.

The similar agreement was close to finalizing three years ago, but at
the time Georgian government yielded to opposition from the Georgian
Orthodox Church and the deal was not signed.

`The key goal of this process is, first and foremost, to save our
common cultural heritage,' Vashadze said.

The Turkish Foreign Minister expressed hope that the two countries
would cooperate positively in the sphere of historic heritage.

Ahmet Davuto─?lu also said that it was an important issue, `since we
have common history.' He said that the Georgian historical monuments
located on the territory of Turkey also were part of Turkey's historic
heritage and vise versa.

`Cultural monuments existing in Georgia are joint cultural heritage.
It especially applies to Adjara and Batumi, where Muslim population is
residing. It is a good example of good neighborly relations and it
should be assessed and discussed positively,' he said.

From: A. Papazian