In recent days, the Armenian press has been actively discussing the information about the construction of a Turkish military base in Georgia. According to the rumors, Turkey is going to build an air base in Javakhk, which can be used to reach Azerbaijani military bases by a shorter route.
The Fact Investigation Platform has examined the sources of these rumors and the open source information.
What is the Armenian media discussing?
Rumors about Turkish military bases to be built in Javakheti and Marneuli were circulated again in the fall of 2020, before the war and during the war, initially referring mainly to the Russian media.
A few days ago, on April 14, ArmNews TV channel again referred to this topic, presenting the Russian press as a source of information.
According to another claim, a Turkish military base is being established on the site of the former Russian base in Javakhk. “It is not yet known whether the Javakhk base is certainly to be built or not,” reads the second report on ArmNews TV.
The report also quotes the words of the expert in Arabic Studies Armen Petrosyan, in which the latter mentions that it was Georgia that built its own “military facility” in Javakheti earlier, and there is no talk of cooperation with other countries. There was a discussion on this topic on the air of the second TV channel of Armenia.
Turkey has built a military base in Georgia “several times”
Discussions in the Armenian media about the construction of a Turkish military base in Georgia are not new․ They have been intensifying in the last few years with some intervals. In early 2016, the issue of building a military base in Georgia and Nakhichevan was discussed. The issue of “building a military base” was discussed by the Georgian and Turkish authorities back in 2004, which was again reported in the press. These discussions once resulted in a serious backlash among the Armenians of Javakhk.
In all the years, the discussions referred mainly to the air base to be built on the site of the former Russian military base in Javakhk, in the city of Marneuli populated by Azerbaijanis.
It is noteworthy that both Georgian and international sources do not publish any information about the military base being built or to be built in Georgia. All available information refers to the Georgian military base being restored with Turkish grants. Besides, so far this cooperation has not included the direct presence of Turkish forces in the territory of Georgia.
Turkish-Georgian military cooperation is not new either
The talks on Turkey’s military presence in Georgia are based on the developing Georgian-Turkish cooperation.
This cooperation has a history of decades starting with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1992, a trilateral agreement on military education was signed between Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Turkey and Georgia signed an agreement on military exercises, technology and science in 1996.
The Marneuli Air Base was damaged by Russian strikes during the Russian-Georgian war in 2008, after which Turkey and Georgia cooperated in modernizing and upgrading the military base through grants from Turkey. One of the goals is to bring the air base in line with NATO standards. In 2020 alone, within the framework of military cooperation between the two countries, Turkey provided about $ 18 million to Georgia, more than $ 14 million of which was for the upgrading of Marneuli Air Base.
Examining the satellite photos, we can see that in 2020, rehabilitation works were carried out at Marneuli Air Base.
On the very first day of the 2008 war, another military base in Vaziani bombed by Russian troops 20 kilometers from Tbilisi was rehabilitated with Turkish financial support.
There are no active discussions on the construction of a military base in the Georgian and Turkish press, where only official information on military cooperation has been published.
In conclusion, we can state that the Georgian-Turkish military cooperation is really developing with great activity, but the claims that Turkey is building a military base in Marneuli are manipulative. The latter supports the upgrading of the Georgian air base in Marneuli without a direct military presence. And there is no information confirming or denying the rumors about Turkey constructing a military base in Javakheti.