Turkish President Abdullah Gül said that his government, in refusing to issue a visa, had been responsible for the cancellation of Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh’s proposed visit to Turkey. “I cannot make any additional comment in this regard,” he said.
“I can only reiterate in this regard that Turkey supports Georgia’s territorial integrity,” the Turkish president said at a joint news conference with his Georgian counterpart, Mikheil Saakashvili, in Tbilisi on November 21.
The first report about Bagapsh's intention to visit Turkey emerged in April, but it and all subsequent ones were quickly followed by reports of a postponement.
Bagapsh had intended to meet the Abkhaz diaspora in Turkey.
Tens of thousands of Muslim Abkhazians moved to the then Ottoman empire, as part of a larger Muslim migration process from the Caucasus in the nineteenth century. The repatriation of their descendants is a policy priority for the Abkhaz leader. Speaking about the demographic situation in Abkhazia in 2005, Bagapsh pointed out that less than 70,000 ethnic Abkhazians lived in the region.
Meanwhile, President Saakashvili said that Turkey “plays a positive role in resolving conflicts in the region.” He also thanked the Turkish authorities for warning Turkish businessmen against investing in breakaway Abkhazia.