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Oil&gas versus «Christian solidarity»: What does Baku blame Georgia for?

The Turkish capital of Ankara has recently hosted a trilateral meeting of parliamentary foreign relations committees of Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. The delegations discussed a series of regional issues, including development of cooperation at international organizations, as well as signed a protocol of cooperation. The delegates were received also by top leadership of Turkey: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

This is evidence of strengthening permanent alliance of Georgia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan, or at least, it looks so. Noteworthy that Georgian people do not feel euphoria over that alliance due to a series of quite warning factors. In fact, this peculiar political axis is making Georgia more and more dependent on its western and eastern neighbors. We have repeatedly mentioned facts of direct pressure of Georgian leadership, when it dared to make decisions meeting national interests but running contrary to interests of Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Here are some more examples of such pressure. Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili was harshly criticized by Azerbaijani politicians after his recent meeting with the Azerbaijani population in Georgia’s Marneuli city. During the meeting, the president pretended not hearing the request of a young Azerbaijani man to observe a minute of silence in memory of those killed during the so-called «Khojali tragedy.» Instead, the Georgian leader said: «Georgia is against escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.»

As a result, Giorgi Margvelashvili was slammed for unwillingness to commemorate «the victims of Khojali,» «disrespect for the Azerbaijani people» and flagrant disregards of their tragedy.

Death of any innocent person is a tragedy for Georgia, but Georgian president’s unwillingness to «strip bandage from the bleeding wound» is quite logical, the more so as the «Khojali tragedy» has no acknowledged status. It is worth mentioning that the Georgian leader’s actions were deemed «inadmissible» just because he dared to keep balance within the interests of Georgia.

That incident was a brusque message to Georgia about its real place and the way it should act. They recalled the president and the Georgian people that the Azerbaijani people helped them in hard times. And despite this, Margvelashvili said that Georgia is always ready to discuss any issue with Armenia and develop relations in all areas. He touched upon the Karabakh problem voicing a statement evidently «criminal» for Azerbaijani politicians: «One thing is clear: for small peoples like us, such conflicts may be disastrous. We pray for peace in the region.» Such ‘criminal' prayers for peace were blamed by Georgian parliamentarian representing United National Movement Party Azer Sulaymanov as well. «Unfortunately, some officials in Georgia seek to sour relations of Georgia and Azerbaijan. If Georgia opens a path for Armenians via its country, it will be an unfriendly step towards Baku,» he said.

Member of Azerbaijani Milli Mejlis, a member of Azerbaijani-Georgian parliamentary friendship group Araz Alizade made even more direct blames against Georgia: «When Georgia lacked electricity and gas, Azerbaijan supplied fuel to help the Georgian people and leadership. Meantime, the Georgian president did not want to commemorate Khojali victims. Nature is stronger than nurture. Here is where Christian solidarity comes out. The actions of the Georgian leadership are embarrassing. Georgia would be starving now but for Azerbaijan and its assistance in implementation of large projects.»

Here is how Azerbaijani politicians see the Georgian-Azerbaijani friendship. To emphasize Georgia’s ingratitude, Azerbaijani media recall some statements by Mikheil Saakashvili, the runaway ex-president and leader of the United National Movement saying «Azerbaijan left half of its population without electricity and gas to help Georgia» when Russia cut gas and electricity supply to Georgia. No comments are needed here, as Saakashvili and his Party should be blamed for all the problems Georgia faced then.

How does Alizade explain such behavior of the Georgian leadership? He believes that Georgians are afraid of «Armenian Diaspora» that may oppose the government and there are many Armenians who have changed their surnames and occupy high posts in Georgia. It would be vein efforts trying to find any logic in such statements. Just recall that all the opponents of Mikheil Saakashvili used his Armenian origin as one of the major arguments against him. Hundreds of articles have been written about it, films have been shot and numerous politicians and cultural workers have addressed that fact.

As for joint energy projects, construction of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan railway, inflow of Azerbaijani tourists are not just gifts to Georgia. Azerbaijan was interested in these projects as much as Georgia was, if not more. After all, these projects ensure a corridor to the Black Sea for Azerbaijan.

Finally, the last thing to recall is Alizade’s statement «Nature is stronger than nurture. Here is where Christian solidarity comes out.» It appears that they no longer consider Georgia as a Christian state. Meantime, it was Christian solidarity, Christian religion that gave Georgians strength to repel bloody attacks of invaders that had tried either to destroy or assimilate the Georgian people for centuries. They failed to conquer Georgia in the past and will fail to do it in future as well.

Irakli Chkheidze (Tbilisi) for EADaily

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