TBILISI, DFWatch – Israeli officials deny that there are in talks with Georgia about handing over control over the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem.

“This is news for us. We have heard nothing like that,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Yigal Palmor said, quoted by an Israeli news agency.

During a visit to Gori February 25, Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili said a special team is working on the Jerusalem monastery issue, and that the Georgian embassy in Israel is involved in the process.

The Monastery of the Cross was built in the XI century with the help and support of the Georgian king and for centuries was considered as Georgian cultural and religious center in Jerusalem.

“We are thankful for the Israeli government’s cooperation, including the issue to save the Georgian sanctuaries protected in the Monastery of the Cross,” the president said then.

DF Watch contacted the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affair to find out whether Georgia really has had negotiations with Israel.

The ministry press office said the president has given such instructions and a special group is set up inside of the ministry working specifically on this issue.

“The process will end soon and then negotiations with Israeli will start immediately. However, there are no negotiations in progress with Israeli now,” the press office says.

The Georgian Antioch also responded to the fact, explaining that some see these issues in connection with the Patriarch’s recent visit to Israeli. There have been calls for the Patriach to comment.

His spokespersons say that even tough he met with clerics and officials, there was no discussion regarding the Monastery of the Cross.

“We note that the Georgian Church has no information yet specifically about what actions the Georgian government implemented regarding the above mentioned issue,” a statement from the Patriarch’s office says.