Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili paid her first visit in the region to Baku where she opened with a surprising comment.
“In recent years, we have gone through similar tragedies. We are now experiencing what it means for our country’s territories to be occupied – what it means to have our country’s territorial integrity violated,” Zurabishvili said in her meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
Zurabishvili compared the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorny Karabakh to the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Her statement came as a surprise, given that the Georgian authorities have been known to avoid taking sides on the Karabakh issue and have maintained a high degree of neutrality.
Zurabishvili’s words received particular attention in Azerbaijan after a statue was erected last month in Akhalkalaki, a region in Georgia primarily inhabited by Armenians. The statue was of an Armenian soldier who fought in Karabakh. Georgian officials attended the opening ceremony, and many in Azerbaijan considered this move unethical.
The flames of tension were further stoked when Azerbaijan decided to raise the price of gas supplied to Georgia.
This is Zurabishvili’s first visit to Azerbaijan in her role as president.