The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called the incident that took place between Georgian residents and Azerbaijani border guards near the David Gareja (Keshikchidagh) Monastery Complex “unfortunate.”
“Such incidents are totally contrary to the spirit of strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and Georgia. Accordingly, we believe that meetings between experts’ groups and delimitation commissions should be resumed timely, for which the Georgian side expresses full readiness,” reads the statement released by the Georgian Foreign Ministry.
The incident occurred Sunday when Azerbaijani border guards allegedly carried icons from the temple and gave them to the Georgian side.
According to local Georgians, the border guards did not have the right to touch the relics of the Georgian temple, a discontent that led to the clash between the residents and the Azerbaijani border guards, jam-news reports.
According to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, local residents of Georgia attacked and insulted Azerbaijani soldiers. Some claim the reason for the incident has been the withdrawal of soldiers from the church and that one of the locals took away weapons from the border servicemen, a move that stirred outrage in the Azerbaijani society.
One of the Georgian websites shows local residents received the alleged weapon from the Azerbaijani border. Another video shows Azerbaijani soldier asking his colleague to tell the locals to return their weapons.
The head of the Georgian border police Teimuraz Kupatadze confirmed this to reporters, saying in an interview that Azerbaijani border guards took the icons away in order to protect them from being damaged under heavy weather conditions.
“They said that the icons could be damaged by wind, rain, and other weather conditions. So that they would not be blamed for the damage to the icons, they brought them out and handed over the icons to our border guards,” Kupatadze said.
The Georgian ambassador to Azerbaijan was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Baku demands an investigation to be launched into the incident and inform the government about the results and expected measures.
Tbilisi called on society to “be as cautious as possible” and avoid provocations.
Leyla Abdullayeva, spokesperson for Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry, has also labeled the incident a provocation aimed at confrontation between the two countries.
Abdullayeva told BBC News Azerbaijani that, “such actions are totally contrary to the spirit of strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and Georgia.”