Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani is visiting Ankara on March 3, where he already met his Turkish colleague Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, to discuss among others the proposed “3+3” Caucasus cooperation format, which envisages participation of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Iran and Russia.
In a joint press conference after the meeting, the Georgian Foreign Minister said although Tbilisi is grateful for Ankara’s initiatives for ensuring “long-lasting” peace in the region, Georgia has a “clear” position against participating in formats that include Russia.
“Joining formats for us means that participating countries value fundamental principles of international law, including by respecting countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Foreign Minister Zalkaliani stressed, adding that “In this case, one country – Russia – is an ‘occupier…’ Naturally, it is difficult to imagine [discussing] any development of economic cooperation in this format, until [Russia] takes steps toward de-occupation.”
Instead, the Georgian Foreign Minister offered, Tbilisi could become a “platform” for Azerbaijan and Armenia to collaborate on economic, business-related, cultural, and people-to-people relations projects.
Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, on his part, said Ankara respects and “understands Georgia’s careful approach to the issue.” “When there are complicated circumstances, meaning Abkhazia and South Ossetia, beginning bilateral talks [with Russia] may be difficult, however, it could be easier to do so in a multilateral format,” he highlighted.
FM Çavuşoğlu said Turkey supports “Georgia’s territorial integrity as well as that of Azerbaijan.”
The two ministers also discussed at the meeting the strengthening of Turkish-Georgian strategic partnership, bilateral economic and trade relations, assistance in efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as joint energy projects with Azerbaijan, including TANAP and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.
Later today, FM Zalkaliani will meet Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay and visit the Georgian Embassy in Ankara.