From the reopening of Rabati castle in August, 2012. (President’s photo.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Friday a round table discussion was held about the rehabilitation of historic Rabati castle in the south of Georgia, but it ended without agreement.

Representatives of the Culture Ministry, arts experts, archeologists, clerics, as well as the Secretary General of the United National Movement attended the meeting.

The background was a statement by the president’s spokesperson earlier in the week about a secret deal between the Ivanishvili government and Turkey about making drastic changes to Rabati castle.

President Mikheil Saakashvili claimed the plan might destroy the castle and said he and his party are against it.

Art critic Manana Suramelashvili presented a report about the Rabati complex and its history. She said that the restoration of the castle was politicized and the work was conducted too quickly and without assessing the historic value of the area.

“You won’t be able to destroy anything there. We will resist any type of destruction,” said Vano Merabishvili, former prime minister and one of the UNM leaders. Mr Merabishvili, who oversaw the last round of restoration work at Rabati, added: “If you can do better than it is, I will support you. That’s why I suggest a moratorium.”

As a sign of protest he left the meeting room. Other art experts attending the meeting noted that if colleagues do not admit that some mistakes were really made during the rehabilitation work, the dialogue cannot move forward.

Culture Minister Guram Odisharia said that the ministry never discussed any type of demolition or destruction, but what is being discussed is changing the color of the dome and the lattices. He said that the noise concerning Rabati is a result of a statement made by Saakashvili’s spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze. https://dfwatch.net/saakashvili-government-plans-drastic-changes-at-historic-castle-84083

“Those were highly politicized statements,” he said.

But Merabishvili told journalists that he plans to start a movement in order to save Rabati castle and not to yield a single inch of Rabati.

Representatives of the ministry have not yet been able to name the date of when the new restoration work will start.

Rabati Castle complex was built in the 13th century and was fully rehabilitated by Saakashvili’s government in 2011-2012. It contains a synagogue, a mosque, a church and also a minaret.