Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 41

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, accompanied by Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze, Foreign Minister Irakly Menagarishvili and senior economic officials, held talks with their Turkish counterparts in Ankara and Istanbul on February 26-27. Ajaria’s leader, Aslan Abashidze, a Russian-oriented challenger to Shevardnadze, joined the Georgian delegation–a tribute to Turkey’s moderating influence on Abashidze.

Turkish President Suleyman Demirel described Shevardnadze as “one of the architects who laid the foundations of the new world order,” a reference to Shevardnadze’s role in facilitating the demise of the USSR. The discussions focused on four joint Georgian-Turkish objectives:

–attracting foreign investment in the planned Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, described as a vital common interest of Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan;

–construction of a direct railroad link from Kars (eastern Turkey) via Akhalkalaki (southern Georgia) to Tbilisi;

–Turkish reconstruction of the Batumi international airport; and

–laying an optical fiber cable on the bottom of the Black Sea from Turkey to Batumi.

The second two projects, benefiting as they do the capital of Ajaria, ought to restrain Abashidze’s secessionist impulses and increase the constructive Turkish influence in that autonomous republic.

Security topics covered during the talks included a possible Turkish mediating role in Abkhazia and planned naval exercises next summer with the participation of Georgian, Turkish, American, German, Greek and Ukrainian navies and coastal guards. The planned exercise will be the first of such magnitude and should also mark the debut of Georgia’s coastal guard at what is nearly full strength (Anatolia News Agency, The Turkish Daily News, February 27).