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The Azerbaijani-Georgian interstate relations are facing a fresh series of threats and provocations by a newly-minted David Gareji “rescue committee” on the state border of the two nations, which Azerbaijan calls the Kesikcidag monastery complex.
The new committee in the making is led by a certain Nikoloz Mzhazanadze, and judging by his recent activities, he is tied to forces keen on escalating relations between Baku and Tbilisi to stab in the back of the two nations.
The body has become known for picketing the Azerbaijani embassy in Tbilisi, holding “Azerbaijan is an occupier” and “David Gareji is Georgia” slogans as well as the Georgia Foreign Ministry. These slogans speak volumes about the intention of the group, which could not have dared this provocation without financial incentives.
In addition, the picketers accused the Georgian Foreign Ministry of indecisively “protecting the Georgian historical heritage”. According to committee members, Georgian citizens, and even more so clergy, should have free access to the temple complex and not depend on the goodwill of Azerbaijani border guards.
He was indignant in conversations with reporters. How can it be possible for the Georgian Foreign Ministry not call back the ambassador to Baku, or send a note of protest? Earlier, Mzhavanadze appeared on the air of the Georgian television channel Objectivi, where he was indignant at the “Azerbaijani occupation and the seizure of churches”. He was claiming that the territory was presented to the Azerbaijani occupiers, etc. etc. And in the end, he accused Georgian politicians, journalists and experts, who, he said do not support his anti-Azerbaijani campaign: “Should we bow our heads to Azerbaijan and create a history for them? Media, journalists, experts are sold out to SOCAR, do you have oil instead of blood running in your veins”
But this is hardly an occasion to kindly dismiss the actions of the newly-minted “committee”. The Kesikcidag temple complex, or David Gareji, is a disputed section on the border, an ancient temple that is considered Georgian in Tbilisi and Albanian in Azerbaijan, which means it, is very sensitive and, like all territorial disputes with a historical background, is an “explosive” question.
It is very easy to tear the situation here into a political tailspin, but it will be much more difficult to overcome the inevitable consequences in bilateral relations. Recent events around this temple complex provide plenty of food for thought.
If we look at the issue seriously and try to understand Mzhavanadze’s action, we can inevitably come to a decision that he is fulfilling a political order?
At this point, it is impossible not to notice anti-Azerbaijani provocations in third countries often ahead of visits of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. It’s enough to recall the desecration by unknown vandals of the monument to the Azerbaijani poetess and heiress of the Karabakh khans Xursudbanu Natavan in the Belgian Waterloo – just, as the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry emphasized, ahead of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s visit to Belgium.
The David Gareji “rescue committee” made itself known just at a time when Pashinyan visited Georgia and where stakes high both for Azerbaijan and Georgia as well as Armenia.
For obvious reasons, Armenia is not averse to breaking Tbilisi’s partnership with Baku and Ankara and pulling Georgia to its side. Nikol Pashinyan unfolded an unprecedented activity there. At first, he relied on “revolutionary solidarity”. They claimed that Georgia should befriend with “democratic” Armenia, not with “authoritarian” Azerbaijan.
When this did not work, they resorted to a “confessional” map before Pashinyan’s visit to Tbilisi. Armenia began to revive the alliance with Greece against Turkey and tried to draw Georgia into it and this didn’t work either and now provocations were kicked off.
Moreover, it is at least difficult to exclude that here the Russian “outpost” acts on a direct “go-ahead” of the Kremlin. First, Russia and Georgia have their own scores. And secondly, everything happens against the backdrop of very significant “shifts” in the gas sector.
New gas fields are being commissioned in Baku and they are talking about the expansion of the Southern Gas Corridor, Turkmenistan is looking more closely at this pipeline. Finally Russia is being systematically driven out of the European market, and Azerbaijani oil appears on the Belarusian market – it’s time to look ways to “break” the unprofitable Azerbaijani pipelines passing through Georgia.
Another question is whether the Georgian government will allow the provocateurs to go far enough. Where, of course, they respect democracy and freedom of speech, but they would hardly want to jeopardize partnership with Azerbaijan.