Verdict: Information contained in the news item is older than one year and false.
Resume: A few days ago, an agreement between Georgia and Turkey, obliging Georgia to transfer a six-hectare land plot adjacent to the Posof-Türkgözü border checkpoint with Turkey, has gained publicity once again. FactCheck’s research demonstrated that the fact took place one year ago. Further, the fact is distorted and misleads the reader.
The aforementioned agreement between Georgia and Turkey was signed in April 2016. Information about the deal has been published in Turkish media outlets.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, the aforementioned land plot has historically been part of a Turkish province. The Turkish-Georgian border at this particular location straddles the River Jakistskali and changes in its riverbed necessitated the demarcation of the riverbed axis on this territory. This demarcation process started in 2013 and finished in 2016 with the signing of the agreement. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia stated that corrections at the Georgian-Turkish border had indeed taken place in 2016 and the Ministry immediately issued a statement vis-à-vis the clarification of the border changes.
The statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, issued on 27 April 2017, reads: “The impact of environmental factors has resulted in changes to the frontier of the River Jakistskali with its riverbed having been altered. At the present moment, there is ongoing work at the two frontier rivers, Jakistskali and Karzametistskali, to restore the respective riverbeds on these two sections to their previous states. The restoration of the aforementioned riverbeds is being carried out on the basis of border demarcation documents of 1973.”
It is underscored in the same statement that on the basis of the agreement between Georgia and Turkey, signed in 1992, the parties recognised each other’s borders and there is no possibility of holding talks to revise these borders.
Of further note is that on 23 March 2017, the Parliament of Georgia discussed and adopted the law on Didgoroba at the first hearing. The law stipulates the proclamation of the Battle of Didgori, a great military victory, as a holiday. As stated by the author of the draft law, parliamentary considerations of this law have been stopped. A request from the Embassy of Turkey to Georgia is one of the reasons for the stoppage of the process with a wave of protest having ensued. One of the initiators of the protest was Erovnulebi Movement leader, Sandro Bregadze, who called upon the public to protect Didgori. As a reminder, before the 2016 Parliamentary elections, Mr Bregadze was announcing that the principal pre-condition for visa liberalisation was legalisation on same-sex marriage. Georgia has already been granted visa-free travel to the Schengen zone whilst same-sex marriage remains illegal.
The intensification of the anti-Turkish campaign started from the Didgoroba issue and the border changes which took place last year. Of particular note is that nothing was mentioned about any of this in an article about Georgia’s ceding the six-hectare land plot to Turkey which was published a few days ago. The sources cited in the article are from last year. This means that the TB24 agency created the news item from a year-old story. Moreover, the pathos (the title and the first paragraph) of the article is aimed at fuelling anti-Turkish sentiments. FactCheck believes that spreading this sort of information serves the interests of those countries which are hostile toward Georgia whilst also aiming to foster negative attitudes amongst Georgia’s population in regard to one of the country’s most important strategic partners. This is good reminder for all users of social networks to verify the accuracy of any article with this kind of content. Readers can use our roadmap for verification.
TB24 is the media outlet which published the aforementioned news item in April 2017. It was registered by the Georgian National Communications Commission on 26 March 2017. This news agency is associated with Lado Bedukadze, one of the leaders of the Centrists party together with Temur Khachishvili. The party’s action plan declared the change of Georgia’s foreign political orientation as its major priority. Integral components of the plan included a constitutional ban on Georgia’s integration to NATO and the restoration of diplomatic relations with Russia. Centrists have been concluding certain agreements with voters with one of the main promises in the form of having Russian pensions in Georgia. The Central Election Commission of Georgia revoked the party’s registration because the party’s leader did not have legal authority. This leads us to think that TB24’s activities might be motivated by the desire to spread pro-Russian narratives whilst the cultivation of anti-Turkish sentiments is in the interests of Georgia’s northern neighbour.