Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili paid an official visit to Turkey, where he had a meeting with President Recep Erdogan.
The premiere was accompanied by:
At their joint press conference, Erdogan noted that Turkey considers Georgia "a key to regional cooperation" with Azerbaijan and Armenia, the press service of the Turkish president quoted Erdogan as saying.
"Turkey has been Georgia's largest trading partner for the past 14 years. Although our trade volume decreased slightly in 2020, we have now set a goal to reach $3 billion and will continue our work in this direction," Erdogan said, adding that Turkey's investments in Georgia, including the energy sector, amounted to $214 million.
This is probably the number only for the previous or the current year, as Turkey has been investing in all sectors of the Georgian economy during the past decade — from infrastructure (roads, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, telecommunications), construction, services, energy, to textile and food industries. Turkey has monopolized all imports to Georgia (75 percent). Turkish companies work to modernize Georgia's two main airports — in Tbilisi and Batumi.
In addition, Georgia had Turkey involved in construction and maintenance works of the entire border zone with the Russian Federation. The Turks also train Georgian servicemen within the framework of NATO programs.
The Prime Minister of Georgia thanked Turkey for supporting Georgia's sovereignty at all levels, as well as for Turkey's support for Georgia's accession to NATO.
According to him, Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan are interdependent and interconnected owing to their close cooperation, partnership and friendship.
"There is a very solid foundation between us for the joint implementation of an even larger number of projects in both bilateral and trilateral formats," Georgian Prime Minister Garibashvili said.
The meeting between Turkish President Erdogan and Georgian Prime Minister Garibashvili took place against the backdrop of six-month protests against the implementation of the Turkish project for the construction of the Namakhvan hydroelectric power station in Abkhazia. The main investor in the project is ENKA Insaat ve Sanayi AS, a Turkish company.
According to the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC), ENKA illegally appropriates the natural resources of Georgia practically for nothing (the Rioni River and adjacent territories. — Ed.) and does not undertake to sell energy on the domestic market, which nullifies arguments in favor of Georgia's energy security or economic benefits."
The organization also said that the Georgian government, in addition to the land, which was transferred to the company (600 hectares), was contractually obliged to transfer other "required land plots" to the company, even if it goes about arable land. If the "required land" belongs to a private person in Racha-Lechkhumi, or Imereti, or in Rioni Gorge — in any territory that abjures alienation — the state shall undertake to help the company in obtaining land through expropriation or confiscation.
The EMC believes that electricity bills from this company will be higher (about two lari per kWh) than from other suppliers in the energy market of the country.
Several years ago, Erdogan included Batumi, along with Thessaloniki, Aleppo and Mosul, on the list of the cities, that "always stay in the hearts of the Ottomans."
Today's Batumi has many new buildings that were erected by Turkish companies and populated by Turkish families. Many of those families hold Georgian citizenship, which they had received from the warm hands of then-Prime Minister of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili.
Turkish companies have numerous offices in the centre of Batumi that have Turkish, rather than local employees.
"Adjara has never seen so many Turks living there, even when it was part of the Ottoman Empire," Alexander Chachia, Doctor of Political Sciences, said once back in 2014. He concluded that radical Islam was gaining strength in Adjara, thus posing a threat to Orthodox Georgia.
Until the 1920s, the gorge of the Adjaristskali River, as well as the territories to the south and east of the river, used to be called Muslim Georgia, not Adjara. One part of it, since 1878, had been part of the Russian Empire (Batumi and Akhaltsikhe districts), and the other part — of the Ottoman Empire. Ajarian autonomy appeared as part of Russia as a result of the Kars Treaty concluded between the RSFSR and Turkey (the treaty provided autonomy to Muslim Georgians).
One may assume that as the Kars Treaty expires in October 2021, the Turks will officially lease Adjara, Georgian political scientist Georgy Gachechiladze says.
Orientalist Igor Dmitriev is convinced that Erdogan is trying to resort to the technique that Ankara had used during the 1930s with respect to the Syrian province of Hatay (Alexandretta Sandjak). The Ottomans simply captured the province, having claimed that the province was populated by ethnic Turks. According to Igor Dmitriev, Turkey "will try to apply a similar method throughout northern Syria, in Georgian Ajaria, in Iraqi Mosul, and also, as a super task, in Armenian Gyumri and Zangezur."
Nikolay Silayev, a leading researcher at the MGIMO Institute for International Studies, told Pravda. Ru that Turkey wanted to obtain maximum influence, including in Georgia and Azerbaijan.
"This is the meaning of the Turkish foreign policy, so that Turkey becomes more influential today than it was yesterday, and tomorrow — more influential than today. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it does not. As a result of the second war in Karabakh, Turkey did not get what it wanted — a new format of negotiations in this conflict, in which its status would be similar to that of Russia," the expert said.
Arno Khidirbegishvil, editor-in-chief of Sakinform said:
"Turkey has always been an aggressor and occupier for Georgia, and it was only Russia that "stopped" the Turks from conquering Orthodox Georgians by signing the Treaty of St. George with Georgia on July 24, 1783.
At the height of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, "Turkey was ready to deploy its armed forces in Adjara if the Georgian government had failed to ensure the security of the region" — Georgia's then Minister of Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili said that in an interview with the Georgian News Agency on March 3, 2009.
"Merabishvili did not tell the whole truth: Turkey did not send its troops to Adjara, because it was Russia that prohibited the Turks from acting so," Arno Khidirbegishvili said.
From the very beginning of its independent existence, Georgia took a Russophobic position under the pressure of the West. This pushes Georgia towards unequal cooperation with the neo-Ottomans. Georgia's approach to Russia as an enemy is a very short-sighted and unpromising position for Orthodox Georgia, based on its history.
The Russian Ministry of Defense showed a video of the destruction of US-made M777 towed howitzers in Ukraine. The US systems were destroyed by the Russian Kub (Cube) kamikaze drone