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The News in Brief

Monday, January 30
Georgian churches in Turkey to be restored

Georgian experts will carry out restoration work on the Oshki and Ishkhani monasteries, both national heritage monuments located in Turkey. Minister of Culture and Monument Protection, Nika Rurua, met with the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Turkey in Ankara last week.

According to an agreement signed by the two ministers, the restoration of Turkish monuments in Georgia will also begin in the near future.

"Georgia and Turkey have very close economic and political relations, and we want to enhance this cooperation into the spheres of culture and tourism. In both countries there are our cultural monuments, over which we have been negotiating for a long time, and today we have reached an agreement. The Turkish side takes responsibility to conduct restoration works on Ishkhani and Oshki under the observation of Georgian specialists," Turkish Minister Ertughlur Unai said.

Fiji may recognize Georgia's occupied territories

The Australian media is reporting that Fiji may become the sixth state to recognize the independence of Georgia's breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in the country last week to hold negotiations with local authorities regarding the issue. However, deputy minister Aleksandr Lukashevich bypassed a question about this potential recognition at a recent press conference, saying that any such decision should be undertaken independently, by a sovereign state.

Fiji is currently experiencing a flood; however, the Russian minister declined to postpone his visit.

Davit Bakradze hosts Swiss delegation

Chair of the Parliament of Georgia, Davit Bakradze, hosted a delegation from the Swiss Foreign Affairs Department Friday, discussing bilateral relations and future cooperation. Bakradze said at a briefing that Switzerland plays an especially important role in Georgian-Russian relations, praising their efforts to control cargo transit between the Georgia-Russia borders in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. "Switzerland has a decisive significance and function in the process of cargo transit monitoring and it is important for us that the monitoring is perfect and Georgia is fully informed about cargo turnover on the Russian-controlled borders, as it is envisaged by the agreement," Bakradze said.

The Chair also hailed Switzerland's participation in Russia's WTO accession negotiations, adding that the key issue now was the successful implementation of the terms of the agreement. In addition, he recognized Switzerland's participation in the Geneva process, currently the only form of talks between Georgia and Russia.

Tbilisi, Lublin sign cooperation memorandum

The authorities of the municipal governments of Tbilisi and the Polish city of Lublin have signed a cooperation memorandum. The document envisages planning and implementation of youth, art and sport projects, as well as exchange programs, between the two cities.

The delegation from Lublin were impressed with Gudauri, Georgia's popular winter resort, announcing that they hope Polish tourist agents can plan trips to Georgia, and perhaps bring athletes there.

The chairperson of Lublin City Hall, Peter Kovalcik, and Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, signed the memorandum on Friday.

Christian-Democratic Movement leaders holding meetings in Washington

Christian-Democratic Movement leaders are holding meetings in Washington, D.C. The party's press service reported that the party leader, Giorgi Targamadze, and the party's international secretary, Giorgi Rukhadze, visited a Rockville, Maryland church and attended a sermon there. Later they held a meeting with Georgians living in Washington. Targamadze discussed current political developments and pre-election mood in Georgia.

The Christian-Democratic Movement leaders’ visit to Washington began on January 26 and will conclude on February 3.

Meetings have already been held in the State Department, the House of Representatives and Senate, as well as in the American Republic Institute and the National-Democratic Institution.

Giorgi Targamadze is invited to breakfast with President Obama on February 2.

Ministry of Internal Affairs to release details of monk's disappearance

Shota Utiashvili, head of the Analytical Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, will release more details about the disappearance of a Georgian monk, known as Iona, at an Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism meeting in Gali on January 31.

Iona departed for Abkhazia last week, and has not been heard from since. Clergymen presume he was arrested while entering the Abkhazian territory. A relative of the monk told Georgian TV that an unknown person called them from Abkhazia requesting $100 000 as ransom for the monk's release.

According to the office of Georgia's Patriarch, they will make a statement after reviewing the case.

Labour Party accuses gas company of theft

The Labour Party of Georgia has accused Tbilisi gas provider Kaztransgas of cheating its subscribers. Party representative Kakha Dzagania said at a briefing Friday that the company supplies natural gas at an intentionally low pressure and that unwanted substances are added to the gas, both of which result in subscribers paying three times the market rate for gas consumed.

"This is a crime, which is expressed in mass robbery and cheating towards the subscribers. We call on the prosecutor's office to build up a criminal case on this crime and stop the criminal activities of this company," Dzagania stated.
(Rustavi 2)