The Azerbaijani side is carrying out road construction works close to the disputed parts of the medieval David Gareji Monastery, as Georgian-Azerbaijani border delimitation commission is meeting in Baku for the second day of negotiations.
Media outlets first reported on the ongoing works on May 23, after Zviad Ananiashvili, one of the local guides, wrote on his Facebook page that construction machines were cutting the road on the Azerbaijani side leading to the Chichkhituri Church, one of the three disputed monastic sites.
Video footage from the scene published by the guide showed two bulldozers grading a road along a foothill. Civil.Ge was unable to verify the exact location of the construction site, but Ananiashvili’s account and later reports from the area indicate that works are underway on the Azerbaijani side, just beyond the disputed mountain ridge (possible location of the groundworks can be found here).
Deputy Foreign Minister Lasha Darsalia, head of the Georgian delegation in the border commission, said the authorities are aware of the ongoing works, but they still asked for further clarification from their Azerbaijani counterparts. “What we can say for sure is that no works can take place on the Georgian-controlled or disputed territories without Georgian delegation’s consent,” he noted.
Archimandrite Kirion (Oniani) of the David Gareji Monastery was less discreet in his assessments, calling on the authorities to be “more adequate” in their statements. “This is a site of historical and cultural heritage and such works should not be carried out here; this is [mere] vandalism. This contradicts to Azerbaijani legislation as well, as they have declared their side [of the complex] as a historical and cultural reserve. How can there be bulldozers digging roads in a reserve,” he noted.
Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze commented on the issue briefly later on May 23, telling reporters that resumption of the work of the border delimitation commission will allow the two countries “to address the issue in a civilized manner, in the spirit of our friendship and strategic partnership.”
For more background, follow our tag on David Gareji.