ANKARA (Combined Sources)—Abkhazia’s president, Sergei Baghpash arrived in Turkey Thursday for a four-day visit, reported Civil Georgia.
The Turkish foreign ministry was quick to spin the news by touting Georgia’s territorial integrity.
“Turkey perfectly shares the sensitivity of Georgia concerning her territorial integrity. In that respect, Turkey respects and supports the territorial integrity of Georgia within her internationally recognized borders, a policy that remains a fundamental position,” said a written statement released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry late Thursday, reported Hurriyet Daily News.
“The visit of Mr. Sergei Bagapsh to Turkey will take place purely on medical grounds upon the invitation by the civil society associations founded by Turkish citizens under their sole responsibility. The visit has by no means an official character,” said the ministry statement.
“Turkey reconfirms its commitment to deepening the strategic relations between Turkey and Georgia to the benefit of our peoples and the region at large,” it added, said Hurriyet.
The visit is held upon the invitation of the Ankara-based Federation of Caucasian Associations (KAFFED) and Federation of Abkhaz Association is aimed for the Abkhaz leader to meet with members of the large Abkhazian Diaspora in Turkey.
Bagapsh will also travel to Istanbul and Adapazarı, a city in northwestern Turkey.
According to the Abkhaz news agency, Apsnipress, Bagapsh is accompanied by the region’s foreign minister Maxim Gvinjia, economy minister Kristina Ozgan, president of national bank Ilarion Argun, parliament member Taali Khvatish, chairman of Abkhaz entrepreneurs association Leonid Osia and chairman of state commission on repatriation Zurab Adleiba.
The Abkhaz Diaspora in Turkey includes descendants of those tens of thousands of Muslim Abkhazians, who had to move to the then Ottoman empire, as part of a larger Muslim migration process from the Caucasus in the nineteenth century. The Abkhaz authorities have said for numerous times previously that repatriation of ethnic Abkhazians living in Turkey was among their priorities.
In an interview with the Russian news agency, RIA Novosti, in August, Bagapsh said that Sokhumi did not expect recognition from Ankara in foreseeable future, but it wanted to have close economic relations with Turkey.
“[Sokhumi has] normal, good neighborly relations with Turkey. A large Abkhaz diaspora lives there. How they [relations] will develop – it’s hard to predict for me, because I understand situation within Turkey itself; I do not foresee recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Turkey in the nearest future,” Bagapsh said.
“We are in favor of good neighborly relations; it should be launched with economic [relations], movement of people, communication links should be opened between Abkhazia and Turkey. These processes can be launched,” he added.