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Gakharia, Aliyev Agree to Reopen Access to David Gareji Churches

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The churches of David Gareji Monastery Complex located on the disputed section of the Georgian-Azerbaijani state border will reopen for Georgian clergy from October 11, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said at the government’s session today.

The announcement comes a day after Gakharia’s official visit to Azerbaijan on October 9. Calling the border dispute between the two countries “the post-Soviet legacy,” Gakharia noted that the issue of David Gareji Monastery Complex could not be bypassed during his meeting with the Azerbaijani President.

Earlier this month, the Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II sent a letter to Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, asking for his assistance in opening the Udabno and Chichkhituri churches for tourists, parish and clerics.

“Mr. Aliyev noted that we have common history and geography. And I definitely agree with it, because friends and partners are not separated but rather connected by common geography and history. Just on this basis, we had an absolutely open conversation about persisting problems and as a result, I can say that from tomorrow, the churches existing at the monastery complex will be opened for Georgian clergy,” Gakharia said.

According to the Georgian PM, “this problem should be solved considering the national interests of the two countries, as well as historical heritage and interests of the church.”

Commenting on the matter, Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani hailed the decision as “an important, tangible result,” adding that along with lifting the restrictions, the work within the state border delimitation commission will continue.

“I am sure that we will jointly find a solution in a form acceptable to the both sides, stemming from the interests of our strategic partnership,” Zalkaliani said.

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

For more background, follow our tag on David Gareji.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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