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Georgia-Turkey to simplify border procedures

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, February 14
Georgia and Turkey have agreed to simplify border crossing procedures. According to a statement released by the Georgian President’s administration after a meeting between Mikheil Saakashvili and the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, crossing the Georgia-Turkey state border will be possible “without getting out of the car” after showing a passport or an ID card. Speaking at the meeting with the Turkish top diplomat, Saakashvili touched upon the issue of a “United Caucasus”.

“The fact that we are opening our borders is a good example for the other countries in the region. My wish is a united Caucasus. We shared this idea with our Azeri and Armenian friends,” the Georgian President said, adding, “There is a long way to go before this idea is fully realised; however this is a very good step forward.” Saakashvili pointed out that open borders is a “very important prospect” for the Caucasian people not only in economic and cultural terms but also in terms of “deepening human relations.”

Saakashvili hailed Georgia’s Black Sea resort of Batumi as an “economic centre in the whole of the Black Sea region.” “Georgia should become the main economic link for the whole Central Asia and Caspian region, including, of course Turkey. Turkey is not only an economically growing state, but a standard for innovation, where the newest technologies are being implemented successfully,” the President noted.

Earlier on Saturday the Turkish Foreign Minister met his Georgian counterpart, Grigol Vashadze. The sides talked about the issue of simplifying the Georgian-Turkish border crossing, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported. Speaking at the press conference after the meeting, the two diplomats said they discussed the possibility of new border crossing points between Georgia and Turkey. “The number of border crossing points was increased when the Kartsakhi crossing point was completed. Sarpi point will work with a one window principle, which will further promote travel between the two countries,” Davutoglu said.

The Georgian and Turkish Foreign Ministers discussed the issue of restoring churches and mosques located on the territories of the two countries. Davutoglu noted that the cultural heritage monuments issue was one of the main topics of discussion between Georgia and Turkey, “We have a common history and the churches which are located on Turkish territory are part of our historical heritage and we will do all the necessary work to restore them,” the Turkish Minister said. “The monuments located on Georgian territory are part of Georgia’s cultural heritage. This is true about Adjara region, where a large number of Muslims live. Restoring the monuments is a sign of positive cooperation between the countries. This is not a subject of confrontation between us, instead these restoration works unite us,” he noted.

Talks between Georgia and Turkey on restoring churches and mosques are underway, according to the Georgian Foreign Minister. “Of course we care about saving our mutual cultural heritage monuments and as soon as the negotiations are finalised, the public will be informed,” Vashadze commented. He said the talks on the issue started “a little bit late.” “If the negotiations had started a bit earlier, the cultural monuments would have been in a better condition now,” he stated.