Turkey & Georgia: Resilient Partnership & Solidarity in War, Coup Attempt & Pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic and extraordinary circumstances it brought about globally have been a test of resilience in many terms for governments and nations.

Solidarity, good neighborly relations and partnership have become more than just words of diplomatic speech writing.

Indeed, this pandemic and the socio-economic consequences have also put the international and transborder cooperation to the test. Turkey and Georgia have been loyal to their mutual responsibilities not only bilaterally, but also as regional actors, as good neighbors and strategic partners.

In fact, while unprecedented, the COVID-19 pandemic is not the first time that Georgia and Turkey have been reminded of the importance of one another, for each other. Nor is it the first time that the resilience of our nations have been put to the test.

On August 14, 2008, now President then Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Tbilisi right after the war, and in very clear terms declared in a joint press meeting the solid support of Turkey to “Georgia’s independence, sovereignty, and the protection of Georgia’s territorial integrity, which is recognized by the UN Security Council and international law.”

Seven years later, on 19 July 2016, a Georgian delegation headed by then Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili became the first high level guests to arrive in Ankara just four days after the FETÖ cult terrorized Turkish people with a coup attempt, killing 251 civilians, police and military who came out in defense of democracy.

It does not take an expert in international relations to understand that these high level visits that took place in the aftermath of the most traumatic days of our nations were beyond symbolic gestures of diplomacy: these visits were initiated by genuine concern for the stability, security and well-being of one another. They were tangible acts of solidarity between two good neighbors.

Four years on, the government and people of Turkey still remember that emotional moment when the Georgian delegation laid flowers on the place where Turkish citizens had been murdered by helicopter fire under the command of pilots who turned out to be FETÖ militants. We remember how hard it was to tell our Georgian friends that our Parliament was bombed while in session under the instruction of FETÖ civilian cadres, who were later apprehended in the military air base, which was the headquarters of the coup plot.

When the Georgian delegation visited Ankara and Istanbul four days after the coup attempt, the bodies of 55 police officers who were bombed by FETÖ at the Police Special Operations Center, had yet to be put to rest.

The evidence which revealed the role of the FETÖ structures in this unprecedented betrayal, and the extent of their global network behind this plot, was established in the months that followed that horrible night. We now know from surveillance cameras, international cooperation, witness testimonies and confessions, that the crimes committed on July 15 were just the tip of an iceberg.

That iceberg was a network of schools, businesspersons, media power and charities which evolved from a benign education movement to a secretive operational structure aiming to transform Turkish society by taking control of the Turkish State from within. As its strength grew, the organization began to claim a global messianic mission, depicting its founder and leader Fetullah Gülen as the “Imam of the Universe”. It became a network which began meddling in business transactions; government tender processes, and mass exam cheating to capture civil and military bureaucracy; laundering an enormous sum of money and arranging the illegal transfer of cash.

In the course of the past four years, Turkey has shared its findings about this very complex and secretive network with its allies, friends and partners, including Georgia. This was done not only because Turkey is determined to ensure that this criminal network is stripped of all capabilities to hurt Turkey again. What Turkish police, prosecutors and courts found out about this structure was shared with friendly governments also because FETÖ, where present in any form or structure, works pretty much like the COVID-19 virus, not revealing symptoms at the early stages, but becoming fatal as it attacks the immunity system by corrupting the social, economic and administrative tissues of any state and nation. In this spirit, the four political parties, including two main opposition parties represented in the Turkish Parliament, made a joint statement on August 9, 2019 to the USA, and all friends and partners, to cooperate with Turkey with a view to extraditing Fetullah Gülen and other FETÖ members.

While the painful memory of July 15 2016 still lingers, Turkey has overcome the trauma and proved its resilience as a sovereign, secular, democratic and capable state.

On August 24, 2016, Turkey launched the Operation Euphrates Shield against the DAESH and PKK/YPG terrorist organizations in Syria. On January 2018, Turkey ventured another counter-terrorism operation in Afrin against the PKK/YPG threat to its security. These operations revealed that despite the FETÖ infiltration and betrayal, the Turkish military has recovered its operation capabilities in defending the country from threats outside of its borders.

The recovery from the coup attempt and trauma was not only achieved in the military-security field. Turkey fulfilled all its commitments in strategic projects such as TANAP, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, and the Marmaray (railway under the Bosphorus). Turkish exports swelled by 10% in 2017, and in 2019 crossed the $180 billion threshold. Major infrastructure projects, including the new Istanbul Airport, have been completed, and Turkey continues to host more than 3.5 million Syrians and Iraqi citizens who fled the civil war.

Turkey remembers the solidarity of her good neighbor Georgia during and after the July 15 coup attempt. As such, in the past four years, for Turkish governments, bilateral cooperation with Georgia has remained as a priority item on the agenda, despite many challenges to national security and regional peace and stability, Turkey has remained a staunch supporter of Georgia’s membership to NATO and continues to support projects and investments that enhance Georgia’s resilience. Turkey also continues to support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia, as well as the security and stability of the Black Sea region. The Military Financial Cooperation Agreement signed in December 2019, with which Turkey committed to grant $15 million for the capacity building of the Ministry of Defense of Georgia, has been the most recent result of that support.

In economy and trade relations, Turkey was Georgia’s first trade partner in 2007 and remains one of the leading foreign investors. The $1.6 million worth of renovation and rehabilitation works of the Batumi Infectious Diseases Hospital which was completed in 2019 by TIKA (Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency) is a concrete example of that development cooperation.

The COVID-19 pandemic, with its global socio-economic consequences, surely requires that the cooperation between Turkey and Georgia be further enhanced and for us to remember that as we have stood together in solidarity through wars, attacks on our democracies and national security, we shall stand together resilient.

Thus, the words of great Georgian Statesman Ilia Chavchavadze will continue to guide us: “When a nation remembers this liturgy of its common soul, those great natured men and stories of great deeds, it is revamped, encouraged and inspired, and is self-assured every way in joy and in sorrow.”

By Ambassador of the Republic Turkey to Georgia, Fatma Ceren Yazgan

16 July 2020 17:51