Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Davit Jalagania, met on June 9 with Turkish ambassador in Tbilisi, Levent Gümrükçü, to convey protest over recent visit of a group of Turkish lawmakers to breakaway Abkhazia.
The Foreign Ministry said that the Georgian side expressed its “negative” stance and “protest” over the issue and also expressed hope that such cases, which “do not correspond to partnership existing between Georgia and Turkey”, will not reoccur in the future.
Five members of the Turkish Parliament visited Abkhazia last week and met, among others, acting Abkhaz leader and parliament speaker Valery Bganba and acting foreign minister of breakaway region Vyacheslav Chirikba, on June 7.
All five Turkish lawmakers, who visited Abkhazia, are elected from Sakarya constituency – the province in northwestern Turkey where many of Abkhaz diaspora community representatives live.
The delegation included three lawmakers from ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP): Ayhan Sefer Üstün, the chairman of Human Rights Inquiry Committee; Ali İhsan Yavuz and Hasan Ali Çelik. Two other MPs were: Engin Özkoç of opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and Münir Kutluat of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Sakarya Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Zeki Toçoğlu and representatives from Abkhaz and Caucasus cultural centers in Sakarya were also in the same delegation.
After meeting with the Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Turkish ambassador Levent Gümrükçü reiterated his country’s “long-held position of non-recognition policy vis-à-vis Abkhazia and South Ossetia” and support to Georgia’s territorial integrity.
“We have been informed about this last visit on Saturday. I have had a talk with Deputy Minister Jalagania and today we continued our discussions on that issue. I reassured the Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs and government that Turkey’s position vis-à-vis Georgia and its territorial integrity has not changed,” the Turkish ambassador said.
“Whenever we are informed of such visits in advance, we immediately get in touch with related parties, we inform them about our policy, we also inform them about Georgian policy and laws and regulations and possible consequences those visitor might bear when it comes to visit and travel to Georgia. So we will continue doing that in the future as well. We will reach out to our members of parliament and we will reiterate our policy again vis-à-vis Georgia’s territorial integrity. So that’s what we are going to do in the near future as well,” Ambassador Gümrükçü added.
According to Georgia’s law on occupied territories, entry into breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia for foreign citizens from the areas other than Georgian-controlled territories is a subject to criminal punishment. Violation of this rule carries either financial penalty or a jail term from two to four years.