Equipment under the wing of Lockheed C-130H Hercules aircraft seen during a joint Greek-Benelux-Spanish observation flight over Georgia under the Open Skies Treaty on November 1, 2006. Photo: OSCE
Georgia said it had ceased its obligations vis-à-vis Russia under the Open Skies Treaty, which allows its 34 participating states to gather information about each other's military forces through unarmed observation flights.
The move was in a response to Russia's decision two years ago to impose restrictions on flight path for aerial observation over its territory, in particular over the areas adjacent to Georgia's occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on April 5.
The treaty, which went into force in 2002, contains a clause according to which "the flight path of an observation aircraft shall not be closer than... ten kilometres from the border with an adjacent State that is not a State Party."
"Russia refused to allow the observation flights over its territory to fly within 10 kilometers of the occupied regions of Georgia, asserting that those regions constituted states, which were non-parties to the Treaty," the Georgian Foreign Ministry said. "The Russian Federation has deliberately and improperly restricted the right of all other States Parties under the Open Skies Treaty, denying them full territorial access to the Russian territory as required by the Treaty."
"It is obvious that the Russian Federation cannot unilaterally alter the geographical coverage of the multilateral Treaty by purporting to recognize a new entity on the territory of a State Party. Nor can Russia compel other States Parties to accept this illegal recognition [of Abkhazia and South Ossetia]," the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.
For two years, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said, Tbilisi had been trying in vain together with its partner states to make Russia "return to full compliance with the treaty obligations".
It also said that Georgia's decision to cease its obligations under the treaty in respect of Russia "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 Foreign Ministry stressed that Tbilisi would continue fulfilling its obligations under the Open Skies Treaty with respect of all other participating states.
In November, 2011 following some NATO-member states Georgia too announced about stopping sharing military information under the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) with Russia; Moscow suspended its participation in CFE in 2007.