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New Rally at David Gareji Monastery

Several hundred people: Orthodox clerics, civic activists and local residents held a protest rally once again near the Church of the Resurrection at David Gareji Monastery on May 28.

The protesters gathered at the Church of the Resurrection at midday, where they raised the Georgian flag and then moved towards the Chichkhituri Church.

The participants claimed that the rally “is not directed against anyone” and that they simply wanted to emphasize in a peaceful manner that “David Gareji is Georgia.”

“Our homeland should belong to us. This is what pains and nothing more. We do not want to lose anything more, even one inch of land,” a cleric participating in the rally was shown saying on TV footage.

Davit Katsarava, leader of the “Strength in Unity” movement which protests the Russian occupation of Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia , was present at the rally, quoted as saying that “such rallies send message to the Georgian government and our Azerbaijani friends that there will be no compromise, as it is our territory and our heritage.”

The rally was scheduled following after an announcement was allegedly spread on social networks and Azerbaijani websites of the message on May 28, that to mark the Azerbaijan’s independence day, Azerbaijani activists planned to arrive at the Chichkhituri Church and hold a rally there.

Calls for calm

Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani called on the public for calm. “It is crucial that while the commission [on delimitation] is working , there is no perception that the status quo is being challenged. It is necessary to avoid [compteting] interpretations. We have achieved the result – all groundworks have been suspended there,” Zalkaliani said.

In a statement released on May 27, the Georgian Patriarch Ilia II also called on activists and “especially clerics and parish” for “calm, common sense and civic responsibility.”

“Recent developments around the David Gareji Monastery creates an impression that … an outside force tries to incite serious problems between Azerbaijan and Georgia and in trying to achieve its goals, this force, regrettably, finds support in both countries,” the statement reads.

Background

David Gareji, a medieval monastic complex located about 70 kilometers southeast of Tbilisi, has been one of the major stumbling blocks in the Georgian-Azerbaijani border talks.

Lack of agreement on where the border between the two countries passes came into a sharp focus in the end of April, when Azerbaijani border guards restricted access to parts of David Gareji Monastery. Although the restrictions were soon lifted, activists and local residents, as well as some nationalists rallied, claiming Georgia’s rights to the disputed section.

Georgian-Azerbaijani commission, tasked with border delimitation between the two countries, met on May 14 first and later on May 23-24 in Baku. The next meeting will be held in Tbilisi.

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This post is also available in: Georgian Russian

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