Georgian leader heads for Turkey

Eduard Shevardnadze, President of Georgia, left Monday for Ankara at the start of two-day official visit to a neighbouring Turkey. He is expected to focus on security issues and a controversial oil pipeline project. Ankara and Tbilisi seem to have developed friendly ties since Georgia gained independence after the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. Over the past three years, Turkey has reportedly donated some 13 million dollars for Georgia's defence needs. The two countries are also cooperating on an oil pipeline project, heavily backed by the US, that will carry oil and natural gas from Azerbaijan through Georgia to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, bypassing Russia. During Mr. Shevardnadze's visit to Turkey, the former Soviet foreign minister is also expected to broach the vexed question of stability in the Caucasus region, which has been plagued by ethnic conflicts since the fall of the Soviet Union. "In the course of the last few years, relations between Georgia and Turkey have developed a significant rhythm ... because the two countries have common strategic interests," Mr. Shevardnadze's spokesman Shalva Pichkhadze is quoted as saying by the France-Press news agency.

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