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Georgia Breaks Off 'Open Skies' Accord with Russia

RIA Novosti

12:25 06/04/2012 TBILISI, April 6 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia announced that it is breaking its obligations to Russia under the 1992 Open Skies Treaty, saying Moscow attempted to use the accord to "legitimize" its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"Georgia made a decision to cease fulfilling its obligations vis-à-vis the Russian Federation under the Open Skies Treaty" on April 3, the foreign ministry said in a statement posted on its website on Thursday.

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.

"This decision in specific terms means that Georgia will not allow any observation flights with the participation of the Russian Federation over the territory of Georgia and Georgia will not conduct observation flights over the territory of the Russian Federation," the statement said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment.

The move came in resonse to Russia'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."

For the past two years, Russia has refused to allow Georgian observation flights over its territory on the pretext that Abkhazia and South Ossetia were not its signatories, the statement said.

Moscow recognized the two provinces as independent states following a brief war with Georgia in 2008, although only a few other nations have followed suit.

However, Georgia will resume cooperation with Russia "upon the latter's return to full complience with the Treaty," the statement said.

The Open Skies Consultative Committee, which is the implementing body for the accord, was not immediately available for comment.

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