Peaceful rally ‘Gareji is Georgia-Caucasus is Our Home’ held on conditional border with Azerbaijan

Rally participants say a “third force” wishes to worsen Georgian-Azerbaijani friendly relations through the use of the issue of David Gareji. Photo: Radio Liberty/Free Europe., 28 May 2019 - 13:37, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian clerics and public groups are holding a peaceful rally in Georgia’s David Gareji monastery complex, at the conditional border between Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The rally comes amid negotiations between Georgia and Azerbaijan on the border, which has not been agreed upon since the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991.

Clerics, the parish and people rallying now say that the sixth century Gareji monastery complex is the country’s cultural heritage and the border issue must be settled so that the whole complex be located within Georgia.

The rally will say that we do not want rivalry with anyone, especially with our Azerbaijani brothers. With the rally we warn everyone that no one will be given a chance for provocations and to inflict a blow to the region,” the statement released by the rally organisers reads.

Georgian Patriarch Ilia II urged public for wisdom regarding David Gareji issue. 

The statement mentions the “the third force,” [allegedly Russia] which is interested in unrest between Georgia and Azerbaijan with the use of the Gareji monastery complex.

A third force was also mentioned by Georgian Patriarch Ilia II in his today’s statement.

The latest developments leave an impression that other force wishes to make relations tense between Georgia and Azerbaijan, which is unacceptable,” Ilia II said.

He urged Georgian and Azerbaijani governments to carry out an intensive dialogue “to settle the issue in a fair and timely fashion”, for the friendly relations between Georgia and Azerbaijan to be maintained and strengthened further.

The church is ready to actively participate in the process,” Ilia II said.

The Patriarch called upon the public, clerics and the parish to be calm and show “maximum civil responsibility and wisdom” regarding the issue.

David Gareji monastery complex. Photo: Nino Alavidze/ 

The Georgian Dream ruling party members say that all the resources are available the issue to be settled only peacefully.

Azerbaijan is our friend and we have all the resources to settle the issue in a right way, in a calm environment. It is better to wait for the outcomes provided through the official format [referring to the Georgian-Azerbaijan commission working on demarcation of the border],” Georgian Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze said.

Georgian Environment Minister Levan Davitashvili said that “I am sure the two friendly nations are able to negotiate on such an important and sensitive issue as David Gareji is.”

Georgian and Azerbaijani border guards have been jointly monitoring the situation in the monastery complex since the morning.

“Azerbaijan does not plan any counter rally [as it was reported by several media],” the Georgian Interior Ministry says.

We do not expect any provocation. We are here to protect the safety of our citizens,” Deputy Head of Georgia’s Border Police Teimuraz Kupatadze said.

Azerbaijani (L) and Georgian border police officials in Gareji today. Photo: Interior Ministry press office. 

He stated that Georgian border guards help the public to get to the Chichkhituri tower, where public is gathered.

We do it the process to be organized. When one group gets to the tower, another group leaves,” Kupatadze said.

The Georgian-Azerbaijan commission working on border issues met in Baku last week. The following meeting will take place in Tbilisi, the Georgian Foreign Ministry reported without naming a date.

In April, Azerbaijani borders guards did not allow visitors and clerics into the monastery. However, the problem was resolved shortly after negotiations.

David Gareji is a complex of 22 rock-hewn monasteries and more than 5,000 sanctuaries and cave-cells, located in Georgia’s south-east, at the conditional border with Azerbaijan.