Georgia says has no plans to return to Open Skies Treaty

Georgia says has no plans to return to Open Skies Treaty
  • Clock-gray 16:39
  • calendar-gray 27 May 2020

Tbilisi has no plans to return to the Treaty on Open Skies, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Georgia neither accepts Russia’s flights nor takes part in surveillance flights over Russia. Georgia has been pursuing a consistent policy for all these years, so the 2012 decision remains in place," the statement reads.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Moscow was ready to allow surveillance flights within a ten-kilometer zone along the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in accordance with the Treaty on Open Skies, provided that Georgia returned to the treaty. However, Georgia’s authorities are reluctant to accept this approach as they don’t recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"Yesterday’s statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry about allowing surveillance flights over the ten-kilometer zones is nothing new," the Georgian Foreign Ministry said. "Russia has said openly that efforts to legitimize the illegal recognition of Abkhazia and the Tskhinval region [South Ossetia — TASS] remain on its political agenda," the statement added.

Georgia unilaterally suspended cooperation with Russia under the Treaty on Open Skies in 2012. Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani commented earlier that the move had been prompted by Moscow’s 2008 decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and ban Open Skies Treaty flights within a ten-kilometer zone bordering the two regions. According to Zalkaliani, Russia explained the decision by the fact that neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia were part of the treaty.

US President Donald Trump announced last week that Washington intended to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies, which allows member states to conduct surveillance flights over one another's territories in order to verify arms control agreements implementation. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo specified in a statement that the withdrawal would take effect in six months’ time. The US authorities cited Russia’s alleged violations of the treaty to justify their decision. Moscow has repeatedly rejected such allegations. In particular, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Vladimir Yermakov stressed that US attempts to pass off the withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty as a response to Russia’s violations were completely groundless.

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