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Turkey to restore Ottoman mosque in Georgia

Turkey to restore Ottoman mosque in Georgia

Source : / 3 Apr 2013

Turkish Foreign Minister met head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II and also visited a mosque in Tbilisi where he met one of the senior Muslim clerics in Georgia.

One of the issues that in recent years has been in the center of Georgian public’s attention in the context of relations with Turkey was the need for restoration of medieval Orthodox churches, which are located in north-east Turkey.

Over the past several years, Georgia’s previous government was negotiating with Turkey a potential deal on rebuilding of a mosque in Batumi, which was known as Aziziye Mosque, and restoring several other mosques in Georgia in exchange for reconstruction of several medieval Georgian Orthodox churches in Turkey. The influential Georgian Orthodox Church was strongly against of such agreement.

Last year the proposal to rebuild the Aziziye Mosque in Batumi, which was destroyed by fire in 1940s, met a fierce opposition from some groups in Georgia; opponents claimed that this mosque, built in nineteenth century about a decade before the Ottoman Empire was forced to cede Adjara to the Russian Empire in 1878, was “a symbol” of the Ottoman rule in Adjara.

Although there were some figures within the Georgian Dream coalition who were strongly against the rebuilding of Aziziye Mosque in Batumi, GD leader Bidzina Ivanishvili has never spoken against building of the mosque during his election campaign last year. He, however, was criticizing in general then government’s approach to the issue, saying that it was not transparent.

After PM Ivanishvili’s visit to Turkey in February, the government announced that the agreement was reached with Turkey according to which Georgian experts would be involved in the process of restoration of Georgian churches in Turkey; the government also said that a mosque would also be built in Batumi; in their remarks on the issue the PM and other government members were stressing that it would be a new mosque, not the Aziziye Mosque, and it would be built because it was needed for local Muslim Georgian community in Adjara. The Georgian Orthodox Church has so far remained silent, not voicing its position on this issue.

Speaking at a news conference on March 14, PM Ivanishvili said that new mosque in Batumi was needed for the local Muslim population and it should in no way be a source of controversy in a country with the tradition of tolerance.

He even said that he was willing to fund construction of the new mosque with his own money through his charitable foundation.“I have a huge desire to assist and to personally be involved in building of the mosque in Batumi,”  he said on March 14.



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