SUKHUM -- ‘The Abkhazian authorities attach great importance to the preservation of historical and cultural monuments on the territory of the republic,’ said Deputy Foreign Minister Irakli Khintba in an interview with ApsnyPress, commenting on the statement of the Georgian Foreign Ministry, claiming a ‘purposeful destruction of historical and cultural monuments’ in Abkhazia.
On 26 March, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Nino Kalandadze said at a briefing that Abkhazia is ‘hard work to eliminate any Georgian traces’ from the cultural heritage. ‘The Georgian side intends to raise this issue during the Geneva talks on 28-29 March, noted the deputy-minister. The Georgian Foreign Ministry has officially appealed to UNESCO with a request to prevent the ‘purposeful destruction of historical and cultural monuments of Georgia’ on the territory of Abkhazia.
‘In Abkhazia, people pay great attention to their historical and cultural heritage, including monuments of Christianity," said Khintba. He noted that in Abkhazia there are a lot of architectural Christian monuments in need of restoration.
‘Abkhazia will be engaged in their renovation. It is not a matter of ‘Georgian traces’ in the architecture; we are talking about unique architectural monuments representing a distinct cultural group of churches of the VIII-XI centuries,’ said Khintba.
The Abkhazian leadership has repeatedly appealed to UNESCO for help in the preservation of its cultural and historical heritage, and they have asked that the Christian monuments, which are of particular value, be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. However, this request has been ignored, it was noted with regret.
The problem of the Elyr (Ilori) church, as well as of other Christian monuments, so actively exaggerated by the Georgian authorities, is far-fetched, the Abkhazian diplomat considers. He recalled that EU special representatives of the EU and UN, Pierre Morel and Antti Turunen, as well as the head of the EU mission in Georgia Hansjörg Haber had visited the church but failed to notice any changes that could lessen the value of the object. All the inscriptions in the Georgian language there have been preserved.
Khintba stressed that the Abkhazian delegation to the upcoming 29 March Geneva talks will provide comprehensive information on the protection of monuments on the territory of the Republic.
According to the Deputy Minister, the President of the Republic, [Aleksandr] Ankvab, is paying special attention to the protection of monuments: thus it is planned to reconstruct the Bedia Cathedral, which is the most valuable architectural monument in Abkhazia. This mediaeval Orthodox church was built in the Xth century by King Bagrat II.
Abkhazian diplomat stressed that the Bedia church was badly damaged by bombing by Georgian forces during the Georgian-Abkhazian war of 1992-1993. The Georgian soldiers [mistakenly] believed that Abkhazian militia were hiding in the church.