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Interview with L. Murat Burhan, Turkish Ambassador to Georgia

Friday, October 29
First of all we congratulate you on your national day and wish you all the best. I have a few questions though. The first is concerning Georgian - Turkish relations, how are these relations developing and what prospects exist in this direction?

We are two neighbouring and brotherly countries and we have strategic kind of relationship especially in the energy field with important oil and natural gas pipelines (BTC and BTE) crossing Georgia and linking the Caspian basin with Turkey and the world. Moreover, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is under construction which will link Central Asia and the Caucasus with the West through Georgia and Turkey. Turkey is Georgia’s number one trade partner as well as and one of the main investors. We have many Turkish companies here in Georgia. Very important projects have been carried out by Turkish companies in the country, like the international airports of Tbilisi and Batumi and some other serious constructions and buildings. We also have new projects underway, such as Namakhvani cascades on Rioni River and Paravani power plant – constructions near Paravani Lake in Georgia. We are also very interested in the projects aiming at the development of tourism on the Black Sea Coast and important projects have already been completed by our companies, such as the Batumi Sheraton and others; and there are other luxurious hotel construction projects in Batumi which will be completed very soon. The economic life in Adjara and in the country as a whole will be positively affected by the development of tourism sector which will bring foreign currency and create employment. I think that there is a positive environment in Georgia for Turkish investors that is why Turkish businessmen are closely interested in investing further in Georgia. So there is serious potential in Georgia in different fields and we can use it. Excellent political relations already existing between our two countries contributes to boosting economic and commercial relations as well as ties in other fields between Turkey and Georgia.

Apart from the economic ties there are ties in educational, cultural and other fields. Could you comment on these relations in brief?

Cultural similarities between Turkish and Georgian peoples contributes to furthering our relations. This is one of the main reasons why Turkish businessmen come to Georgia, as they find themselves in a very positive and friendly environment. I believe people to people contacts are very important in understanding each other.

As for education I can say that we have close cooperation in this field too. There are Georgian students who are having their higher education in Turkey and vice versa. Moreover, there are really good Turkish schools in Georgia, which give high quality education with the support of modern technological equipment and the students graduated from these schools will contribute to the bright future of Georgia and constitute the bridge of friendship between Georgia and Turkey. Moreover, we offer scholarships to Georgian students which would like to continue their higher education in Turkey or learn Turkish language. There is also cooperation and programs of exchange of students among Georgian and Turkish universities. However, we should not be satisfied with the existing projects and should try to develop further and deepen our relations.

There are some issues which can be considered as problematic. Turkey has been striving to get into the European Union for many years; Georgia is striving to get into the European Union and NATO. Somehow there is a similar situation for both countries. Could you comment on the issue?

Turkey is a NATO member since 1952. We are supporting Georgia’s aspirations to join the Alliance. A clear indication in this respect was given at the NATO Bucharest Summit in 2008. As for Georgia’s aspirations for the EU, I consider this also very significant for Georgia’s western perspective. However, this is not an easy and quick process.

We both aim at achieving and preserving peace, stability, security and prosperity in our region. This is very important to achieve sustainable development of our countries.

You, as an Ambassador might have some priorities to promote in Georgian-Turkish relations?

Economic and trade relations are very important, but we still have great yet untapped potential in this context. Tourism, which is now flourishing along the Black Sea coast of Georgia can be a priority area on which we can focus. And I think energy is also one of the main strategic relationship areas, as I have already explained before. Last year 150 thousand Turkish trucks crossed Georgia both ways; so this is an important figure which also proves the importance of Georgia and its strategic location in the Caucasus.

You mentioned peace and stability in the region, but currently Georgia has got very dramatic problems concerning the occupation of 1/5 of its territory by Russia. Could you please comment on that?

The conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008 has been a development for which we were very much concerned. At this point I would like to reiterate our support for the territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. Immediately after the cessation of hostilities our Prime Minister launched the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform initiative which is a process aiming at preparing the ground for the establishment and preservation of security and stability in our region. We own this region; if we have some problems we have to undertake the responsibility to solve them. We should develop this sense of ownership because some problems coming up in one part of the region affect the region as a whole. Even if the problems are not so easy to solve we should not let ourselves be discouraged by this, and redouble our efforts for finding solutions to our problems. We believe, if we achieve to solve even one of these problems this will have a positive effect in the solution of other problems as well.

Is there anything you want to convey to the readers of the Messenger?

We are celebrating the 87th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic today. I am pleased to share our happiness with the readers of the Messenger and the Georgian people, and I would like to convey them that I feel privileged to serve as Turkish Ambassador here in Georgia, where from day one I found myself in a very friendly atmosphere; everybody helped me and facilitated my job. I think that the bonds of friendship that exist between our countries contributes to deepening and enriching the relations between our two countries, and I will continue to do my best in promoting further the relationship between our two countries in every field. I would like to thank all Georgian authorities since the beginning of my term here as they have always shown great hospitality and cooperation. As I said, I am very proud to serve here as a Turkish Ambassador in this friendly country. I believe in the bright future of Georgia and in the everlasting bonds of friendship between Turkey and Georgia.