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Georgia May Break Open Sky Treaty – Russian Foreign Ministry (19.04.12)

Georgia’s refusal to fulfill its obligations to Russia under the 1992 Open Skies Treaty violates Moscow’s rights and may break the treaty, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

Lukashevich’s comment came after Tbilisi announced on April 6 that it ceased “performing its obligations vis-à-vis the Russian Federation under the Open Skies Treaty” because of Moscow’s attempts “to exploit the Open Skies Treaty for the purpose of legitimizing the so-called independence of Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia.”

Tbilisi also blamed Russia for refusing to allow Georgian observation flights over the two breakaway provinces on the grounds that they were not Tbilisi’s signatories.

“In practical terms the Georgian decision means that Georgia would not allow Russian observation flights over its territory,” Lukashevich said, adding that the move was a grave violation of the Open Sky Treaty.

The Russian diplomat also said that Tbilisi’s unilateral withdrawal from the treaty would not however hinder Russia’s mission.

The treaty, one of a number of East-West arms and intelligence accords that sprang up after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the territories of its 34 signatories.

Moscow recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states following a brief war with Georgia in 2008, although only a few other nations have followed suit.