Georgian Turkish Ministers of State Discuss Problem of Meskhetian Turks

TBILISI (Noyan Tapan–Georgian Television)–Turkish Minister of State Abdulhaluk Mehmet Cay arrived in Georgia January 9. Minister Cay met with Georgian Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili and other officials.

The Turkish and Georgian state ministers discussed economic issues along with projects to be considered in the future. These projects will further strengthen the firm relations between Georgia and Turkey. Gia Arsenishvili thanked his counterpart for Turkey’s assistance to Georgia in various spheres.

The two ministers discussed the reconstruction of the Batumi airport–equipping the Kardzakhi border crossing–the construction of the Kars-Akhalkalaki motorway and putting in operation the Rustavi metallurgical works.

Abdulhaluk Mehmet Cay recalled the problem of the Meskhetian Turks. Gia Arsenishvili told Cay that this year Georgia would adopt a law which would recognize the Meskhetian Turks’ right to settle in Georgia and condemn their deportation. The Georgian parliament must adopt a law on the issue by April 27 or else it will run into problems with the Council of Europe–which has called upon Georgia to allow the repatriation of Meskhetian Turks as a precondition to the county’s continued membership in the organization

Arsenishvili said–"I have to say that we should think about this issue and analyze it thoroughly. First of all–the two countries’ experts should carry out the relevant work and then a joint commission should discuss this issue. The Turkish chairman of the joint commission–Dr. Cay–will be our guest in future."

Head of the Georgian Repatriation Department–Gouram Mamoulia–has stated the return of the Meskhetian Turks should not create tension between the existing inhabitants. Whereas Melik Raisian–the delegate representing Akhalkalak in the Georgian parliament–has rejected this proposal. Raisian said the relocation of Meskhetian Turks has dangerous consequences for the region and will stir up tension. Since their forced deportation in the 40s–the infrastructure of the region has changed significantly. Virtually all property owned by the Meskhetian Turks no longer exist or have been transferred to new owners. It would be impossible to repopulate the area because there is no space for them. There is also fear that instead of the 70,000 Meskhetian Turks who were exiled–close to 400,000 intend to repatriate.

In January–the Georgian-Turkish business council and the joint economic commission will hold sessions in Turkey. These sessions will be attended by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. One of the aims of the visit of the Turkish minister of state is to prepare President Shevardnadze’s forthcoming visit to Turkey.

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