The Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II Comments on the Davit Gareji Dispute

In a written statement, Georgian Patriarch Ilia II has remarked to the Chairman of the Caucasus Muslim Board, Sheik-ul-Islam Allahshuqur Pasha-zade. The statement calls to reconciliation with the ‘brotherly nation of Azerbaijan to fairly resolve issues’ as it remains ‘absolutely unclear’ what are current actions by the country of Azerbaijan regarding the two monasteries in David Gareji monastery complex.

The pivotal problems appeared at the complex since the Azerbaijani border guards have closed two monasteries of David Gareji - Udabno and Chichkhituri to Georgian clerics, the parish and tourists since the beginning of the year.

The letter released by the Georgian Patriarchate emphasizes on the previous agreements made between the two countries. The deals signed between Georgia and Azerbaijan in 1938 and 1996 positions both monasteries within the territory of Georgia, unlike Bertubani, which is also the part of the monastery complex but according to the deals it is located on Azerbaijani territory. “Legally and based on maps everything is clear regarding Chichkhituri and Udabno monasteries,” Ilia II said.

Ilia II also criticized the erection of a new border base by Azerbaijan, which further confines the movement of clerics and tourists to Udabno and Chichkhituri, which, of course, ‘we will not tolerate’, reads the statement.

“friendly and neighborly relations have no alternative. Your mediation in the situation [and for the friendly resolution of the issue] is very important,” Ilia II addressed Pasha-zade.

The Azerbaijani State Border Service articulated to the Azerbaijani media APA that the “location of the post on the territory of Keshikchidag’s (David Gareji) historical and cultural reserve along with border protection was also intended to protect the historical and cultural heritage of the Azerbaijani people.”

The circumstance became edgier at the scene after the visit of Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili in David Gareji back on April 20, 2019, where she advised for an imperative resolution of the border issue.

Soon after the announcement, Azerbaijani border patrol shut the segment of the monastery complex to monks and tourists for several days.

Another confrontation took place between Azerbaijani border guards and locals in July 2019. In their earlier declarations, Georgian Foreign Ministry and the patriarchate have called for people, clerics, and overall locals to abstain from activities which might create glitches for the mediation process ‘with the friendly nation.’

Nevertheless, the Georgian Patriarchate has specified many times that David Gareji complex is the cultural heritage of Georgia which is inside the nation.

By Beka Alexishvili

Related Story: New Developments at the Davit Gareji Monastery Complex


09 October 2019 15:01