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UPDATED: parish, tourists to be re-allowed to currently closed areas of David Gareji this week

Parish and tourists will be re-allowed to the Chichkhituri and Easter monasteries of the David Gareji monastery complex before the end of the week, Deputy Head of the Georgian Border Police Teimuraz Kupatadze said.

 The statement comes after an incident which took place between locals and Azerbaijani border guards yesterday.

In order for such incidents to be avoided, we [Georgian and Azerbaijani officials] made the decision not to allow people to the monasteries for several days and to the areas which are now closed,” Kupatadze said.

He stated that Azerbaijan has accepted the “restoration of the regime and routes which were allowed before the incident took place.”

Kupatadze said that the situation is calm at the scene.

Earlier: 11:50

The Georgian Interior Ministry says that a minor incident took place between locals and Azerbaijani border guards yesterday, at the David Gareji monastery complex located at the conditional border between Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The tension has been eased and the situation is absolutely calm as of now,” the Georgian Interior Ministry reports.

The ministry has urged public groups to allow the state border demarcation commission, composed of Georgian and Azerbaijani delegates, to work in a calm environment for the border issue to be settled in a timely manner.

David Gareji is the sixth century monastery complex. Photo: Nino Alavidze/Agenda.ge. 

Local guide Zviad Ananiashvili and the public movement Strength in Unity, say that the situation got tense after Azerbaijani border guards took out icons from the Udabno Monastery of the David Gareji monastery complex and handed them to Georgian border guards.

“The behavior irritated locals, which sparked the tension,” Ananiashvili says.

 In April, Azerbaijani borders guards did not allow visitors and clerics into the monastery. However, the problem was resolved shortly after negotiations.

David Gareji is a complex of 22 rock-hewn monasteries and more than 5,000 cells and cave-cells, located in Georgia’s south-east, at the conditional border with Azerbaijan.

Georgia and Azerbaijani have not has not been agreed on the state border since the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991.

The Georgian-Azerbaijani commission working on the demarcation of the state border has met several times.

The Georgian Church has urged clerics and the public to allow the commission work calmly, saying that the David Gareji complex is one of the most precious historic inheritance of Georgia and it must be inside the country.

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