Georgian Patriarch denies controversial Karabakh comment

Georgian Patriarch denies controversial Karabakh comment

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Ilia II, the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia and the spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church, has denied making a controversial comment on the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh during a recent meeting with a top Moslem cleric in the Caucasus.

A Georgian Patriarchate spokesman said earlier this week that Azeri media misquoted the Georgian patriarch and alleged that he had referred to Nagorno-Karabakh as to the land that belongs to Azerbaijan.

The meeting between Ilia II and Sheikh-ul-Islam and Grand Mufti of the Caucasus Allahshukur Pashazade took place in Tbilisi late last week.

During the meeting the Georgian Patriarch reportedly spoke about territorial disputes in the South Caucasus, including the South Ossetian and Abkhazian conflicts in Georgia.

Azerbaijani news agency Anspress quoted Ilia II as saying: “I will never agree with the opinion that we have lost our land. Not at all, we just temporarily lost control over these territories. But justice prevails. As Abkhazia and South Ossetia are the traditional lands of Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh has belonged and will belong to Azerbaijan.”

Yerevan made no official reaction to the originally reported comments by Ilia II that caused a stir in local media.