Monday, 7 September 2009

Abkhazia to voice protest to Georgia and demand it stop piracy at sea

SUKHUM, September 7 (Itar-Tass) -- Abkhazia plans to demand that Georgia “stop piracy” at sea, Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said.

“We are dealing with a new spiral of tensions initiated by Georgia. Georgia continues to whip up tensions, this time at sea,” he said told Itar-Tass on Monday.

He said Abkhazia would voice a protest to Georgia at the five-sided meeting on the prevention and investigation of incidents on the border of Abkhazia to be held in the Gali District on September 8. The Abkhazian delegation will also demand that Georgia stop piracy”.

“At the meeting we will raise the question of seizure by Georgian border guards of ships sailing to and from Abkhazia in neutral waters. We will demand that the Georgian side stop piracy,” Shamba said.

In his opinion, the five-sided mechanism operating under the Geneva discussions on security in the Transcaucasia was created in order to prevent such incidents and any actions that lead to tensions.

“The resolution of the problem associated with the seizure of ships in neutral waters will show how effective this mechanism is,” the minister said.

The Abkhazian delegation to the talks will be led by the president’s envoy to the Gali District, Ruslan Kishmaria.

Shamba also said that Geneva process co-chairmen Johan Verbeke of the United Nations and Pierre Morel of the European Union will arrive in Sukhum on September 9 to discuss the agenda of the next sixth round of consultations scheduled for September 17. Abkhazia will attend the consultations.

The Geneva consultations are held in accordance with the agreement reached by the presidents of Russia and France after a conflict in South Ossetia in August 2008.

On August 17, Georgian authorities detained a tanker under a Panamanian flag in the country's territorial waters.

The tanker Buket was detained "for numerous violations of the state border", the Georgian border guard service said.

The vessel was detained in Georgia's territorial waters by escort ships of the Georgia Coast Guard Service, which said that the intruder tanker was carrying illegally 2,000 tonnes of petrol and 700,075 tonnes of diesel fuel from Turkey to Sukhum.

The tanker was taken to the port of Poti. The investigation is underway, the border guard service said.

There were 17 crewmembers aboard the tanker. Thirteen of them were Turkish citizens and four were citizens of Azerbaijan, it said.

Prior to that, the United Transport Administration of Georgia said the tanker would be seized for numerous violations of the state border, and the decree of responsibility of its crewmembers will be decided by court.

Georgian television said “the tanker captain has been detained, and the other crewmembers are staying aboard the vessel".

Under Georgian laws, the captain, not the crew, is responsible for violating the state border. Usually, the captain of an intruder vessel is sentenced either to a large fine or imprisonment for several years, depending on what kind of a deal the investigation and the defendant make.

Abkhazia said it would reserve the right to take "proportionate measures" in order to protect cargoes intended for the republic and will hold Georgia responsible for possible consequences, the Abkhazian Foreign Ministry said.

The Foreign Ministry said the incident "continues Georgia's policy aimed at destabilising the situation in the region using all methods of political and economic pressure on Abkhazia".

Georgia is taking these steps "in the presence of numerous international observers", the ministry said.

"The Abkhazian side considers the absence of a proper assessment from the international community as a purposeful encouragement of Georgia's aggressive policy that may lead to an escalation of tensions," the ministry warned.

The incident occurred in neutral waters, the director of the state-owned Abkhaz Shipping Line, Zaur Ardzinba, said.

The Turkish seine boar Buket headed for Abkhazia. It was to deliver over 3,000 tonnes of petrol and 755 tonnes of diesel fuel to Sukhum.

According to Ardzinba, "This is the third seizure by Georgia of Turkish ships delivering peaceful cargos to Abkhazia."

He described Georgia's actions as "piracy and contrary to international maritime and humanitarian law".

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