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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 Davutoğlu, in Tbilisi on February 12, the Georgian President's administration said.

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 starting 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 border.

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 Davutoğlu, 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 Davutoğlu 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.

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