Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia discuss energy, transport

TBILISI – The foreign ministers of Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia will meet Wednesday in Turkey's northeastern province of Kars to discuss energy and transportation projects. 

The meeting is important because it paves the way for cooperation between the three nations in almost every field, Zeki Levent Gumrukcu, Turkey's ambassador to Georgia told The Anadolu Agency. 

"I believe that the bridge of peace established by Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan will benefit all neighboring countries," Gumrukcu said. "Relations between the three countries are significant, both regionally and globally."

On the agenda are discussions about developments in the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline, the South Caucasus Pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline. 

Turkish and Georgian citizens can travel between the two countries without a visa or passport, which Gumrukcu said is a good example of improving relations. 

"Turkish businessmen invest in almost every sector in Georgia," Gumrukcu said. "Turkey is a key trade partner for the country." 

 Gumrukcu said around 500 Georgians take Turkish classes at the Yunus Emre Turkish Cultural Center every year. 

He also said Turkey is playing a leading role "in supporting Georgia's integration into the EU and NATO."

 Gumrukcu said conflicts over Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh have led to a lack of "cooperation in the region."

Abkhazia, which, considers itself an independent state, is a part of Georgia's territory according to the Georgian government, UN and the majority of world governments. 

Similarly, Russia formally recognized South Ossetia as an independent state, which declared independence from Georgia after being the focus of a war between Russia and Georgia in 2008. 

Meanwhile, Nagorno-Karabakh, has been a conflict zone between Azerbaijan and Armenia with the Armenians demanding control of Karabakh.

Turkey, a close partner of Azerbaijan, has demanded Armenia's withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh and negotiations have so far failed to produce a permanent peace agreement. 

- Ahiska Turks

The Turkish ambassador said repatriations for Ahiska Turks are still slow.

"Unfortunately, Georgia, the international community and Ahiska Turks are all unsatisfied with the process," he said.

Ahiska Turks, originally from Southern Georgia close to Turkey's border, are spread throughout the former Soviet Union, Turkey and the United States. It has been 70 years since they were expelled by Joseph Stalin from their homeland. 

Having faced discrimination and human rights abuses since then, they struggled to keep their culture alive and ensure their own safety. The community acts as a cultural bridge between Georgia and Turkey.

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