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Clerics report on the doubled number of Azerbaijani border guards in David Gareji

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, July 31
Georgian clerics in the Davit Gareja monastery complex, located at the conditional border with Azerbaijan, say that the number of Azerbaijani border guards in the 6th-century monastery complex of Georgia has been doubled starting from July 14.

They say that the border guards have also opened a tent on the monastery complex territory.

Archimandrite Kirion says that the guards told him that the tent was opened temporarily until the situation at the site becomes stable.

An incident took place between locals and the guards on July 14, after Azerbaijani border guards took out icons from the Udabno Monastery and handed them to Georgian colleagues.

People were irritated by the fact, which led to the tension, Kirion said.

Georgian ambassador to Azerbaijan was also called for explanations in the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry.

Kirion says that clerics and tourists are not allowed to the Udabno Monastery as of now, which is located on the disputed territory.

Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia Lasha Darsalia, who chairs a commission working on state border demarcation issues with Azerbaijan, says that the commission is working to make an official border between the two countries, which has not been agreed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

He says that experts will be involved in the commission work and the following meeting of the commission, on August 19-23, will be held with their involvement.

Darsalia says that the commission needs a calm environment to work effectively.

Georgian clerics and public held a rally on the territory of Gareji in-mid May, saying that the complex is the country’s cultural heritage and the border issue must be settled so that the whole complex be located within Georgia.

“We do not want rivalry with anyone, especially with our Azerbaijani brothers. With the rally we warn everyone that no one will be given an opportunity for provocations,” the rally participants said, pointing at Russia as a conflict provoking force.

Azerbaijani border guards closed a section of the monastery complex to tourists in April, shortly after the visit of Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili at the site, urging for timely settling of a border issue with Azerbaijan.

Kirion says that Azerbaijan increased the number of its border guards and closed the section of the complex after the statement.

The ban was removed in several days, thanks to the negotiations between Georgian and Azerbaijani state figures.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry says that the “border issue is specific” and such topics should be settled calmly and in a friendly environment.

Azerbaijani border guards also closed the 6th-century site back in 2012 that was protested by the march of hundreds of Georgians to Davit Gareja, which ended by the re-opening of the site.

Davit Gareja is a complex of 22 rock-hewn monasteries and more than 5,000 sanctuaries and cave-cells, located in Georgia’s south-east.