Georgian President Zurabishvili: Georgia has border problems not only in conflict zones, but also with Azerbaijan, Armenia
A statement of Georgian President Salome Zurabvishvili on the issue of the border dispute between Tbilisi and Baku over the David Gareji monastery has again given rise to the ire of the opposition and the public.
On December 25, President Zurabishvili said that for a state to be considered valid, it must have universally recognised borders, while Georgia has border problems not only in conflict zones in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but also with Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Zurabvishvili said that despite the work of joint commissions on demarcation and delimitation, the process has stalled.
“It is not clear what prevents the completion of this process, especially in light of the fact that we are dealing with friendly countries. Moreover, both presidents of [Armenia and Azerbaijan] officially stated that they consider the work of the commissions necessary,” Zurabishvili said.
The opposition reacted negatively to the president’s description of the administrative borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia as ‘problematic’, which the opposition says essentially equates them to state borders.
“We believe that with such statements, Zurabishvili harms the country. The ruling Georgian Dream is trying to justify its illiterate statements by not having a good knowledge of the Georgian language or not knowing this or that context”, said the leader of the opposition European Georgia party David Bakradze.
European Georgia categorically demands the government disavow the statement of the president of the country.
“We are dealing with a strategic problem that threatens the country’s security – the occupation, and only a traitor to national interests can speak out in this way. It is also unacceptable to mention [the issue of the occupation] as a problem similar to that of the demarcation with the border of such a friendly neighboring country such as Azerbaijan is for Georgia”, said Tina Bokuchava, former ruling United National Movement member.
The next meeting of the Georgian-Azerbaijani state border demarcation and delimitation commission is scheduled to be held in Tbilisi in early 2020.
A sixth-century monastery complex carved into rocks and caves, which the Georgian side calls David Gareji, and the Azerbaijani side Kishikchidag, periodically becomes the cause of escalating relations and gives rise to incidents between two neighboring friendly countries.
The problem is that the state border between Georgia and Azerbaijan passes through the monastery complex. Georgia claims that David Gareji is a monument of Georgian culture. Azerbaijan believes that the complex is part of the Albanian culture and has nothing to do with Georgia.
The last aggravation of the situation around the historical monument was recorded in April 2019.
Then, the Georgian media reported that the Azerbaijani border guards blocked the road leading to the part of the complex located on the Azerbaijani side. For several days, the complex remained inaccessible not only to numerous tourists, but to Georgian clergy. Then, Georgian activists staged a series of rallies during which incidents occurred with Azerbaijani border guards.
Formal negotiations between Tbilisi and Baku on the delimitation of border demarcation continue to this day, but to no avail.