Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 138

Turkish president Suleyman Demirel, accompanied by six cabinet ministers and a large business delegation, paid an official visit to Georgia on July 14 and 15. Demirel and his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, finalized a plan to build a railroad link from Kars in Turkey to Akhalkalaki in Georgia and to link up the two countries’ electrical power systems. The combined cost of the two projects is valued at $1 billion, most of which the Turkish side said it was willing to cover. Regarding transportation of Caspian oil, Demirel came out for choosing the route "not by political criteria but strictly by economic ones," noting that the route from Baku via Georgia to Turkey’s Mediterranean terminal Ceyhan "has no economic alternative."

Officials stated that Turkey ranks first among Georgia’s trade partners and also among the foreign countries investing in Georgia. However, those levels are still modest ($100 million in trade turnover in 1996) owing to poor transport infrastructure and the inhibiting factor represented by regional conflicts.

The sides also signed an agreement on training Georgian officers in Turkish military schools, another on the mutual maritime border, as well as a "declaration on deepening cooperation" and other documents. A joint communique endorsed Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity with respect to Abkhazia and registered "full consensus" on international and regional issues. The two presidents in parallel statements endorsed NATO’s enlargement in Europe. Shevardnadze commented that "in just a few years, Georgia and Turkey have achieved a level of mutual understanding that other countries take generations to reach." (International agencies, July 14-15)

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