"Gov’t is in full control of Pankisi Gorge", says President, security officials

Council of Elders is an authoritative, respectable group of Pankisi locals who make important decisions. Photo by PM's Press Office
Agenda.ge, 30 Jan 2016 - 14:28, Tbilisi,Georgia

The situation in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge is "absolutely calm” and nothing is happening there to be concerned about, Georgian security officials say.

Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili today visited the Gorge where he met with locals and discussed the living and social conditions in the area.

The President was accompanied by the United States and the European Union’s Ambassadors to Georgia and Georgian high officials.

The visit came four days after Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow had intelligence that showed terrorist group ISIS was operating a training base in Georgia’s eastern, Muslim-populated Pankisi Gorge.

In response, President Margvelashvili denied Moscow's claims and said he was confident Georgia’s law enforcers had full control over the area.

"But at the same time we, political leaders, are always attentive to this issue and we will never ease our attention,” Margvelashvili said.

Head of Georgia’s State Security Service Vakhtang Gomelauri also commented on Lavrov’s allegations and said the situation was "absolutely calm” in Pankisi and the area was not being used by ISIS fighters.

"We can freely say that nothing is happening in Pankisi and no groups are being trained there. Life is going on in the Gorge the way it is in other areas of Georgia,” Gomelauri said.

Lavrov voiced his allegations at his annual press conference on Tuesday, saying ISIS militants were using this "hardly accessible territory to train, rest and replenish their supplies”.

The Pankisi Gorge is a valley mainly inhabited by the Kist sub-ethnos in northeastern Georgia that borders the Chechnyan republic of the Russian Federation.