Georgia to prevent Meskheti Turks from compact settling in Samtskhe-Javakhk-Tsalka region

Politics Materials 19 December 2008 17:07 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec. 19 / Trend , E.Tariverdiyeva/ Georgia will not allow a compact settlement of Meskheti Turks in the Samtskhe-Javakhk-Tsalka region in order to avoid complications in Georgia-Armenia relations and to prevent a threat to the territorial integrity of the country.

"Georgia takes into account the concerns of its neighbours and acts in accordance with its territorial interests, as well as refrains from compact settlement of large numbers of returnees," independent Georgian political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze said to Trend .

On Dec. 16, representatives of Armenia's Mitk think tank and of a range of youth and political public organizations called on Georgian leadership to prevent return of Mesheti Turks alone to the Samtskhe-Javakhk-Tsalka region due to a number of reasons declared in their statement.

About 90,000 Meskheti Turks lived in Georgian Samtskhe-Javakhk-Tsalka region until 1944, when they were evicted from the territory during Stalin's repressions. Upon entering the European Council in 1999, Georgia made a commitment to return them to their former places of residence. At the legislative level it was decided that a special commission would consider the proposals of those seeking to return to their homeland. So far, the commission received only 700 applications, therefore the application deadline has been extended. Now 70 percent of the Samtskhe-Javakhk-Tsalka region is populated by Armenians.

Despite constant protests by Armenian establishment against the return of the Meskheti Turks to the region, observers believe there is no reason for such protests, because the Georgian leadership does not want a mass return of immigrants to its territory, avoiding conflicts with neighbours and fearing for the country's territorial integrity.

Armenians act beforehand. Nothing has happened yet, but they are already protesting, Russian political expert Mikhail Aleksandrov said. "Armenians make it clear for the Georgian authorities that there is no need to instigate conflict situation," said Aleksandrov, head of Caucasus Department of the CIS Institute. "However, the Georgian authorities are not going to create conflict situation."

Return of Meskheti Turks to the native lands in the territory of Georgia is impossible, first of all, because Georgian authorities do not want it to happen, Turkish expert Ufuk Tavkul said.

He said the major reason is Georgia's fears regarding its territorial integrity. "When there is a demographic rise of population, they can demand autonomy," said Tavkul, fellow of KOK strategic studies center. 

Georgia views granting rights to ethnic groups without titles as a potential risk, Azerbaijani independent expert Tofiq Abbasov said.

He added that the problem of demographic stability is especially painful for Georgians. "The natural rise in ethnic Georgian population is immeasurably low and can not be compared with the demographic rise of Turkic ethnic groups," Abbasov said to Trend .

However experts say instability of Georgia's territorial integrity can be provoked not by Meskheti Turks.

Flow of Meskheti Turks is not large enough to cause social explosion, however Georgia is likely to fall because of national principles given current trends and demands of autonomies both in Samtskhe-Javakhetia and Marneuli regions, Aleksandrov said.

There is a real risk of separation of the region which is not connected with the settlement of Meskheti Turks, Abbasov noted.

Demands of Armenian leaders in Georgia to grant them cultural autonomy indicates that there is actual plan of separation of Armenian-populated regions from Georgia and their annexation to Armenia and this plan is being implemented at the moment, Azeri expert said.

"Armenians living in this territory have plans of separation and access to the Black Sea," Tavkul said.

Moscow based R.Agayev and Baku based B.Hasanov contributed to the article.

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