The Monastery of the Cross from the 11th century was a Georgian cultural center through the Middle Ages, but control over it was lost when it was sold to the Greek church in 1685. (Photo: Ester Inbar.)

TBILISI, DFWatch – The issue about returning management of Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem to Georgia has no connection with the government of Israel, says Yitzhak Gerber, Israel’s Ambassador to Georgia.

On May 1, before an event Sheraton Metekhi Palace Hotel in Tbilisi to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day, he told journalists that this issue should be resolved between the Greek and Georgian churches.

Afterwards, Georgia’s Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said that the issue of transferring control over Jvari isn’t subject to discussions with the Israeli government.

The foreign minister elaborated that even though Georgian officials have repeatedly said that there are negotiations in progress, the issue isn’t the subject of discussion on a bilateral government level, because the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem is an independent unit, but that the Georgian government has sent an appeal to their Israeli colleagues, and received a response saying that if their help, consultation, or advice is needed, they will provide it.

The question of returning control over the Monastery of the Cross has been a subject of discussions for the last two months. There is contradictory information about the talks, and the details are still unclear.

Since the end of February, the Georgian government has been claiming that there are negotiations with the Israeli government on the issue and that the Georgian foreign ministry, the Georgian Embassy to Israel and consulate services are involved.

On February 25, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili first commented on the issue. On April 12, Davit Bakradze, Georgia’s Speaker of Parliament, said during a visit to Israel that he had discussed the issue officially with the Prime Minister of Israel, and with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch.

Monastery of the Cross was built in the early to mid eleventh century. It was a Georgian religious, cultural and educational center during the Middle Ages, but Georgians lost control over it when it was sold to the Greek Orthodox Church 1685.