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Wednesday, July 15
The Covid-19 pandemic and extraordinary circumstances it brought about globally have been a test of resilience in many terms for Governments and Nations.

Solidarity, good neighborly relations and partnership have become more than just words of diplomatic speech writing.

Indeed, this pandemic and socio-economic consequences have also put the international and transborder cooperation to test. Turkey and Georgia have been loyal to their mutual responsibilities not only bilaterally, but also as regional actors, as good neighbors and strategic partners.

In fact, while unprecedented, the Covid-19 pandemic is not the first time that Georgia and Turkey have been reminded of the importance of one another for each other. Nor, it is the first time that the resilience of our countries have been put to test.

On 14th August 2008, now President then the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Tbilisi right after the war in August 2008, and in very clear terms declared in a joint press meeting the solid support of Turkey to “Georgia’s independence, sovereignty and protection of Georgia’s territorial integrity, which is recognized by UN Security Council and international law”.

7 years later, on 19 July 2016, Georgian delegation headed by then Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili became the first high level guest in Ankara, only 4 days after the sinister FETO cult terrorized Turkish people with a coup attempt killing 251 civilians, members of police and military who came in defence of democracy.

It does not take one to be an expert in international relations to understand that these high level visits that took place in the aftermath of most traumatic days of our nations were beyond symbolic gestures of diplomacy.

These visits were initiated by genuine concern for the stability, security and well being of one another. They were tangible acts of solidarity between two good neighbors.

4 years later, the Government and people of Turkey still remember that emotional moment when the Georgian delegation laid flowers to the place where Turkish citizens were murdered by helicopter fire under the command of pilots who turned out to be FETO militants. We remember how hard it was to tell our Georgian friends that our Parliament was bombed while in session under the instruction of FETO civilian cadres who were later on apprehended in the military air base, which was the headquarters of the coup plot.

When the Georgian delegation visited Ankara and Istanbul 4 days after the coup attempt, the bodies of 55 police officers who were bombed by FETO at the Police Special Operations Center, were still not put to eternal rest.

The evidence which revealed the role of the FETO structures in this unprecedented betrayal and the extent of their global network behind this plot was established in the months that followed that horrible night.

We now know from surveillance cameras, international cooperation, witness testimonies and confessions that the crimes committed on 15th July were just the tip of an iceberg.

The iceberg was a network of schools, businesspersons, media power and charities which evolved for a benign education movement to a secretive operational structure aiming to transform the society by taking control of the Turkish State from within. As its strength grew, the organization began to claim a global messianic mission, depicting its founder and leader Fetullah Gulen as the “Imam of the Universe”. It became a network which began meddling in business transactions; government tender processes, mass scale exam cheating to capture civil and military bureaucracy; laundering enormous sums of money, arranging illegal transfer of cash.

In the course of the past 4 years, Turkey shared its findings about this very complex and secretive network with its allies, friends and partners, including Georgia. This was done not only because Turkey is determined to ensure that this criminal network is stripped of all capabilities to hurt Turkey again. What Turkish police, prosecutors and courts found a lot about this structure was shared with friendly governments also because FETO, where present in any form or structure works pretty much like Covid-19 virus, not revealing symptoms in the early stages, but becomes fatal as it attacks the immunity system by corrupting social, economic and administrative tissues of any state and nation. In this spirit the 4 political parties, including 2 main opposition parties represented in the Turkish Parliament made a joint statement on August 9, 2019 to the USA, and all friends and partners to cooperate with Turkey with a view to extraditing Fetullah Gulen and other FETO members.

While the painful memory of the 15 July 2016 still lingers, Turkey has overcome the trauma and proved its resilience as a sovereign, secular, democratic and capable state.

On August 24, 2016, Turkey launched the Operation Euphrates Shield against DAESH and PKK/YPG terrorist organizations in Syria. On January 2018, Turkey ventured another counter-terrorism operation in Afrin against PKK/YPG threat to its security. These operations revealed that despite the FETO infiltration and betrayal, Turkish military has recovered its operation capabilities in defending the country from threats outside of its borders.

The recovery from the coup attempt and trauma was not only achieved in the military-security field.

Turkey fulfilled all its commitments in strategic projects such as TANAP, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, Marmaray (railway under the Bosphorus); the Turkish exports swelled by %10 in 2017 and in 2019 crossed the 180 billion USD threshold. Major infrastructure projects including the new Istanbul Airport have been completed and Turkey continues to host more than 3.5 million of Syrians and Iraqi citizens who fled the civil war.

Turkey remembers the solidarity of her good neighbor Georgia during and after the 15th July coup attempt. As such, in the past 4 years, for Turkish governments bilateral cooperation with Georgia has remained as a priority item on the agenda, despite many challenges to national security and regional peace and stability, Turkey has remained a staunch supporter of Georgia’s membership to NATO and continued to support projects and investments that enhance Georgia’s resilience. Turkey continues to support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia as well as the security and stability of the Black Sea region. The Military Financial Cooperation Agreement signed in December 2019, by which Turkey committed to grant 15 million USD for capacity building of the Ministry of Defence of Georgia, has been the most recent result of that support.

In economy and trade relations, Turkey remains Georgia’s first trade partner since 2007 and one of the leading foreign investors. The 1.6 million USD worth of renovation and rehabilitation works of Batumi Infectious Diseases Hospital which was completed in 2019 by TIKA (Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency) is a concrete example of development cooperation.

The Covid-19 pandemic with its global socio-economic consequences surely require the cooperation between Turkey and Georgia to be further enhanced and to remember that as we have stood together in solidarity through wars, attacks on our democracies and national security we shall stand together resiliently.

Thus, the words of great Georgian Statesman Ilia Chavchavadze will continue to guide us: “When a nation remembers this liturgy of its common soul, those great natured men and stories of great deeds, it is revamped, encouraged and inspired and is self assured every way in joy and in sorrow.”

Fatma Ceren YAZGAN
Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey