Rabati castle in Akhaltsikhe, Georgia. (Ministry of Culture.)

Turkey’s ambassador to Georgia confirms that experts from Turkey have visited Rabati castle and requested certain ‘changes and improvements’ for the complex.

Two days ago, a spokesperson for President Mikheil Saakashvili presented a draft of an agreement the government has prepared with Turkey, which included making changes to the rehabilitated Rabati castle complex in southern Georgia.

The president and his party are strongly opposed to the plans and argue that the changes would destroy the castle.

Turkish ambassador Levent Murat Burhan on Thursday told journalists that there is no final decision yet, but experts expect there to be made corrections and changes at the complex.

Rabati castle dates back to the 13th century and lies in the town of Akhaltsikhe. It contains a synagogue, a mosque, a church and a minaret, and was refurbished in 2011-2012 by Saakashvili’s government.

Now, the Culture Ministry will organize a round table discussion about the reconstruction of Rabati, and has invited experts, employees of the complex, and representatives of civil society. The ministry also has invited Vano Merabsivhili, one of the National Movement leaders, who managed the last round of rehabilitation work at Rabati.

Yesterday, he responded to this issue saying that ‘the government started fighting against Rabati complex.’

“Everyone can come and present their own arguments and counter-arguments,” Culture Minister Guram Odisharia said after Thursday’s government session.

The minister said that a group from the ministry has arrived in Akhaltsikhe in order to study the situation and inform society. Meanwhile, discussion may continue during the round table.

The new government thinks there were made mistakes during the last reconstruction of Rabati, and Turkey has requested to improve them. The government therefore prepared the text of an agreement, which Manana Manjgaladze, Saakashvili’s spokesperson, presented yesterday.

The text of the agreement foresees ‘restoring the Akhaltsikhe bath complex from the 18th century; 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.’