President Mikheil Saakashvili at the reopening of Rabati Castle in August 2012. (Official photo.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–President Mikheil Saakashvili claims that the Ivanishvili government plans to make a deal with Turkey about removing Christian symbols from the historic Rabati Castle, but the Ministry of Culture claims Rabati won’t be destroyed in any of case.

The castle dates back to the 13th century, and is located in the town of Akhaltsikhe, in the southern part of Georgia. It contains both a synagogue, a mosque, a church and also a minaret.

The whole compound was rehabilitated by Saakashvili’s government in 2011-2012.

Now, the president’s spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze claims that president’s administration on Tuesday received secret documents from the foreign and culture ministers confirming the plans to take down Christian symbols and remove the dome.

She further said the government asked for the president’s approval and wanted him to treat the delicate matter in confidentiality, however the president went public and now demands an explanation.

At a briefing Tuesday, Manjgaladze said that it is ‘unacceptable’ for president ‘to change’ Rabati castle.

According to her, there is a ‘misunderstanding’, which comes from the Georgian government and they think it is impossible that it might have been request from Turkey. The president plans to visit Turkey in the near future and during the visit he plans to find out more about this issue.

“The proposal of the new government is dangerous and unacceptable for our country and the president will never agree to it,” she said.

“This is not problem of Turkey-Georgia. This is the continuation of a trend which we see and hear lately – to destroy all what was built and restored in recent years in Georgia,” she noted, and read several paragraphs from the secret document about Rabati.

The quotes read by Manjgaladze indicate that Georgia takes on the obligation to restore the bath complex of 18th century of Akhaltsikhe; also ‘to improve errors made during rehabilitation work in 2012 for madrassas and mosque – to change the color of the dome, to bring back the older lattices, to check the drainage system around the buildings and if needed, to improve the facing material.’

Deputy Culture Minister Marina Mizandari on Tuesday rejected Manjgaladze’s claim, calling it ‘ridiculous.’

“We will just improve the errors, which was impossible to leave as it is now,” she said. “Because there is a methodology of heritage protection, very strict regulations and standards of restoration, which need to be followed in any country.”

She said those standards were violated, because the restoration work was accelerated, also ‘reckless and inconsistent.’

Mizandari said the dome had the wrong color, bad quality lattices and some other problems, and that Turkey made remarks about those issues and Georgia plans to do something about them, introducing it in the text of the agreement which Manjgaladze was talking about.

“Rabati won’t be destroyed and cannot be destroyed because there are cultural heritage buildings on its territory.”

Later Rustavi 2 quoted Guja Bichashvili, director of Rabati Castle Complex, calling the statements about the planned restoration work as ‘a delirium.’

“It is excluded. If there really should have been planned such a thing, the ministry would have made some indications,” he added.