The President of Georgia and the Prime-Minister of Turkey held a joint press-conference.
The President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili
We would like to thank Mr. Erdogan for the friendliness.
Today, we are again with our friends, who had been in captivity for more than a year. Turkey did help us and together we achieved the release of our friends from captivity.
We congratulate them on returning home.
I would like to convey my special gratitude to the prominent leader of Turkey and our great friend.
During the hardships we always stood side by side and today, during our happy occasion, we also stand together.
I personally know many leaders; however I have never met one, who would regard taking care of every single individual’s fate as an integral part of its daily activity. When you have 5 million citizens, as it is in our case, it might be easy, but when you have over 70 million citizens, doing this becomes much more difficult. Nevertheless, the fact is that it is of no difficulty for you.
Often, the fate of specific citizens are in your hands and when it comes to the interests, life, property and the freedom of Turkish citizens, it is always of important to you.
This genuinely is a unique characteristic of a great democratic leader. This case is no different – we have witnessed how you were preoccupied with these issues.
I also remember our joint work on these issues, as well as on many other issues which relate to our bilateral cooperation.
Throughout the last several years Turkey has become a very important state. It clearly is the regional leader, which leads the processes and is the main guarantor of peace in the Middle East and this part of Europe.
If it were not for the proactive pacifying Turkish role in last year’s developments in the Arab world, as well as Iran, processes in Syria, and other issues – such as with regard to the European Union and the immediate region, I think many processes would have unfolded with much more difficulty.
Turkey unequivocally plays a positive role in all these processes.
Quite often, with our European friends, when it comes to bilateral relations, we bring relations with Turkey as an example.
In fact, I noticed recently that the Turkish Foreign Minister in his address to the European Union brought the example of Turkish- Georgian relations. We are doing precisely the same thing with the European Union, when we talk about Turkey.
In the past, the Iron Curtain divided us, but today we have a visa-free regime and we no longer need passports to cross the border.
The fact that we were the first two leaders, who crossed the state borders without passports is not of the greatest importance; instead the key point is that every day thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of citizens of both states cross the Turkish-Georgian border without passports.
Today we agreed to open an additional border check point between the Maradidi and Machakhela gorges, which will connect the populations of both sides.
With the aim of avoiding long waiting lines at the border, we are also working on building and expanding the check point on the Turkish side. We have already built a large check point on our side, in Sarpi.
We are working on full operationalization of the free trade agreement; the Batumi airport was, in effect, at the level of a small village airport, with hardly any flights. We already agreed that this year there will be two flights per day from Istanbul and a daily flight will operate from Ankara. This is a joint, Turkish-Georgian Airport.
Turkey is also our window to Europe, by way of the Turkey Georgia connections to the European railway. We will have the first test in 2012, while switching to permanent, regular railway movement with Europe using a new, modern railway in 2013.
This will be a huge geopolitical breakthrough for our entire region.
I would like to mention another positive dynamics that are also visible – Many Turkish businessmen invest in Georgia. Throughout Georgia, we are intensively implementing joint projects, including projects in the energy sector.
Many Turkish companies construct Hydro electrical power stations in our country. At the same time, the product of the hydro electrical power stations – electricity - is being exported to Turkey.
We are building new electricity transmitting lines.
In a nutshell, against the background of the European crisis, and Asian economic hardships, Turkey is an immensely strong example of dynamic development. Turkey is like an isle, distinguished with prosperity and very rapid economic development.
This is the concrete result of a very important revolutionary development, which despite all the hindrances, the Turkish authorities carried out throughout the last several years.
We are very closely following these reforms. The success of the countries of the region is also linked to the economic success of Turkey, but these are not only economic reforms. We are very closely following the reforms in spheres of education and technology.
Turkey has become a state of innovation, which is a very rare and powerful phenomenon.
We also have active relations in the sphere of education; we cooperate with various universities and have active relations in the sphere of culture.
Besides this, we are working to make sure that the cultural monuments on the territory of two states are protected.
Certainly, we are making sure that Georgian monuments located in the Turkish territory are in appropriate conditions and well restored. We are grateful for the active cooperation of the Turkish government on this issue.
In short, if there can be an example of good bilateral cooperation in difficult geopolitical circumstances, including between a small and a large state, which is founded on the friendship and is free of any hegemony, imperialism, dictate and in effect serves the development and bringing the peoples of two states closer, than it is the relations developed between our two states.
We are in a tough neighborhood and in this neighborhood the Georgian-Turkish relations are exemplary.
A large delegation of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey visited us not so long ago. We await another delegation and it is important that these ties are strengthened.
In a nutshell, we have problem free relations.
First and foremost the Prime-Minister Erdogan should be credited with this. I will never forget his first visit to Batumi in the summer of 2004, which served as a foundation to the revolutionary breakthrough in relations between our states and a very significant stage in Georgia’s development.
I would like to once again thank our sailors.
We are talking about Georgian and Turkish sailors whom have demonstrated an amazing sense of solidarity towards each other. Their fate is intertwined, similar to that of our peoples.
I am very delighted that our Turkish brothers are returning to their families. This is very important.
Very soon, in about an hour and a half, Georgians will also return back to their families.
It would be very difficult to imagine the nightmare they have gone through. They were in horrific conditions while in captivity.
This is perhaps the worst that can happen to a human being.
It is very important that they enjoy freedom today.
We should bear in mind that over 600 sailors, including the citizens of the European Union member states remain in captivity in Somalia today.
While we all condemn piracy, international crime, and closely cooperate with Turkey on all of these issues, the fact that you were among the lucky, who were freed among hundreds still in captivity, is a great achievement and joy for us. Also, this is a source of great hope for those who still remain in captivity.
I would like to once again thank each one of you for your persistence.
Thank you very much for the warm hospitality. Indeed, it is a very friendly gesture when the Prime-Minister of a state specifically arrives to Istanbul; comes to meet me, comes in order to meet you.
This is not an ordinary occasion and it particularly underscores his warm attitude, first towards the fate of an individual, and then towards our country.
The Prime-Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The representatives of the Media,
Today we stand here with our friend Mikheil Saakashvili, grateful that the developments have unfolded happily for us.
First of all, we came to welcome our dear fellows.
Unfortunately, since September 8, 2010 fifteen of our fellow Georgian and three Turkish sailors, who had been working on the vessel hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean flying a foreign flag, had been in captivity.
On January 8, 2012 we were informed that the captured citizens of both states had been released peacefully and yesterday at noon they arrived in the city of Mombasa in Kenya.
Of course we were happy by the news and this was a reason for our great joy.
We wish everyone, who has suffered from this terrible experience, as well as their families, to have it all erased from their memories soon.
Our state had permanent contact with the Georgian Government, with our friend Mr. Saakashvili. Our Foreign Ministers were in constant touch as well. We had also been in cooperation with the Georgian Prime-Minister. While visiting Somalia and meeting with the President of the country, we thoroughly discussed the issue and carried out an enormous work to achieve the release of the captives.
We contemplated all the possibilities and various initiatives right from the beginning of this matter.
We are glad that our efforts aimed at achieving the release of Turkish and Georgian sailors have yielded positive outcomes.
Our friend, Saakashvili facilitated the return of the released sailors to us by a specially designated airplane and I would like to convey my special gratitude to him before all of you.
I am convinced that the Turkish-Georgian mutual collaboration demonstrated with regard to this specific occasion will be imprinted in history as a clear example of our friendship.
Not so long ago, I personally met Mr. Saakashvili to speak about this great news.
During this meeting, we discussed issues related to our cooperation in all spheres, particularly the issues of recent bilateral cooperation in political, as well as military, economic, trade, and tourism spheres in a completely different dimension.
The Georgian – Turkish relations are moving on to an entirely new stage.
We can state that at the border check point every single problem has been resolved– Georgian and Turkish citizens can cross the state border with only using their ID cards.
Certainly, this will promote the development of a completely different type of trade between us. We can say that our goals coincide in the energy sector as well. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is similarly important for us. Besides, works are underway regarding the Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki-Kars railway line, which will hopefully be operational by 2013.
At the moment, there are works carried out regarding the planning of the construction of a Dam on the Kura River.
All the above mentioned activities contribute to bringing Georgia and Turkey even closer.
We are planning to build a road via Borchkha by winter. Apparently, there had been some problems on the incoming road from Borchkha.
In order to get from Georgia to Turkey via Borchkha, a road has been constructed while coordinating with the Turkish Cooperation and Reconstruction Agency.
During the meeting, we also discussed the issue of Akhlikas (Meskhetians of Akhaltsikhe). Mr. Saakashvili treats this issue positively, which gives us a hope that the Akhlikas, who have been displaced from their country, will return to their homeland.
The progress is visible between our countries in the sphere of culture as well.
These are the relations between countries that understand each other. We, inter alia, cooperate on the issues related to the prisoners and convicted citizens.
Precisely this has been emphasized by our friend Mikheil Saakashvili.
In case of a need, we are always ready to assist and have a positive attitude when it comes to business.
With regard to the above mentioned issues, I would like to personally, as well as on behalf of the whole nation, convey my gratitude to him.
To our fellow brothers and sons, who had been captured by pirates about a year and a half ago in Somalia I would like to say: Welcome home!
I would like to wish them to have it well forgotten soon and left in the past.
I believe that the happiness which they enjoy now will help them in the process of rehabilitation.
I am happy that we are with our friends here today.
Thank you very much.