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Clerics, public groups announce rally at Gareja monastery, a disputed area with Azerbaijan

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, May 28
Clerics of Georgia's Davit Gareja monastery complex, which is located on the conditional border with Azerbaijan, together with public groups, will hold a rally on the complex territory today, on May 28. The rally will use Georgian and Azerbaijani flags to deliver a message to "those interested in unrest," saying they will not achieve the goal.

The name of the rally is "Gareja is Georgia and Caucasus is our home."

"The rally will say that we do not want rivalry with anyone, especially with our Azerbaijani brothers. With the rally we warn everyone that no one will be given a chance for provocations and inflicting a stroke on the region," the statement of the rally organisers says.

The clerics and the public groups mention 'the third force,' [allegedly those run by Russia] which is interested in the unrest between Georgia and Azerbaijan with the use of the Gareja monastery.

Since the collapse of the Georgian Union in 1991, Georgia has failed to agree its border with Azerbaijan and Armenia. The country has a recognized border only with Turkey.

Davit Gareja, the sixth-century monastery complex of Georgia, is located on the conditional border.

After several years of suspension, the Georgian-Azerbaijani special commission working on the demarcation of the border met in Baku last week.

Before the meeting took place, Davit Gareja clerics stated that Azerbaijan was constructing a road 'illegally,' on the disputed territory, about 700 meters far from one of the monasteries of the complex.

Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze said that "Azerbaijan was constructing the road, actually, on its controlled territory," but to avoid tension, they suspended the works.

However, clerics say that Azerbaijan finished the construction and they [clerics] accused the government of 'ignoring the problem.'

Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani urged public on Monday to refrain from any activities which may trigger provocations and allow the commission to agree on the border.

In April, Azerbaijan borders guards did not allow visitors and clerics into the part of the monastery complex, triggering the public outcry in Georgia.

Clerics stated that the situation at the site became complicated after the visit of Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili several days before the closure, who urged for the "resolution of the border issue with Azerbaijani on time."

Zurabishvili stated on Monday that she raised the issue, as the county must have agreed on borders with its neighbors.

The problem of closure in April was resolved in several days after the negotiations between Georgian and Azerbaijani top officials.

Davit Gareja is located in South-eastern Georgia, on the semi-desert Iori plateau and is comprised of 22 rock-hewn monasteries and more than 5,000 sanctuaries and cave-cells.

Azerbaijani border guards also closed the 6th-century site back in 2012 that was protested by the march of hundreds of Georgians to Davit Gareja, after which the site was opened.