Turkey Georgia's Closest Friend, Says President, Pledges To Finish With Terror

Turkey is Georgia's closest neighbour and partner, and best friend, President Eduard Shevardnadze said after conference with Turkey's President Ahmed Necdet Sezer, who was in Tbilisi on an official visit. The conference, a closed-door affair in Krtsanisi, Georgian presidential residence, debated bilateral political and economic contacts and prospects to implement regional projects. "We have a reliable treaty and legal basis for practically all fields. A Georgian-Turkish economic commission and a business council are active," said the host country's President. The visit was summed up in a joint protocol as President Sezer invited his Georgian counterpart for a return visit. Turkey's President left Tbilisi by air for Ankara tonight. The two presidents agreed to do all they can to eradicate terrorism, Mr. Shevardnadze said after the conference without specifying just what they intended to do. He was conspicuously silent on Chechen military presence in Georgia. That presence is sizable, as far as the Russian media know. Following recent armed clashes in Abkhazia, after Chechen and Georgian paramilitaries penetrated the self-proclaimed republic last month, close on a hundred wounded paramilitaries--notorious warlord Ruslan Gelayev among them--went to Georgia or Turkey for treatment. Close on 150 Gelayev's men left Abkhazia for Svanetia in the Georgian highlands to settle in several villages, report Novosti interviewees close to the Russian Defence Ministry.

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