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Sokhumi accuses Tbilisi of “piracy” and “terrorism”

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, August 20
The Abkhazian de facto Government has urged the international community to “put pressure” on Georgia over its maintenance of economic sanctions against this breakaway territory.

Sergey Baghapsh, leader of the separatist region, sent an open letter to UN Security Council, EU and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on August 18 protesting against the Georgian coast guard detaining a Turkish vessel carrying a cargo of fuel destined for the Abkhazian port of Sokhumi. “This is already the third case this year of Georgian piracy,” says Baghapsh’s letter. “This incident testifies to the continuation of Georgia’s policy of trying to destabilise the situation in the region. It uses different methods of applying both political and economic pressure on Abkhazia to do this. Moreover, the Georgian authorities do not shun numerous acts of terrorism, one of which was committed by the special services of Georgia on August 12 in Gagra, resulting in 2 victims,” it adds.

Abkhazia threatens that it will conduct “proportional measures” against Georgia if there is any repetition of these incidents and the detained vessel is not released. The Abkhazian leader also asks the international community to “make an adequate assessment of Georgia’s actions and demand that it stop destabilising the situation.... Abkhazia’s attitude to the developed international mechanisms on conflict prevention in the region will depend on how much the international community can influence Georgia to ensure the non-admission of new provocations and the destabilisation of the situation.”

The Georgian Government has already reacted to this letter by stating that if the Abkhazian separatist regime carries out its threats the international community will have a “corresponding” reaction. “If in response to the detention of a vessel carrying contraband [by Georgian law enforcers] the Abkhazian separatist regime is going to conduct some illegal actions this may be considered piracy, the sort which is taking place now in Somalia, where pirates are detaining passing ships and demanding money for their liberation,” stated Vice-Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Gigi Tsereteli, as quoted by the Georgian media on August 19. “Georgia acts according to international law.” “There are international regulations and international maritime laws and Georgia acts in its territorial waters according to all points of these laws,” Georgian MP David Darchiashvili told the Georgian media on August 18.

“Any vessel that violates the territorial waters of Georgia will be detained. Our capacity to do this is limited, however it develops every day and the number [of such vessels] detained will become almost one hundred percent,” stated Shota Malashkhia, head of the Georgian Parliament’s Commission on the Restoration of Territorial Integrity. He added that the Turkish vessel with fuel on board was sailing under the flag of Panama and was detained because of “numerous violations of the state border of Georgia and violation of shipping regulations on the occupied territory.”

The Georgian Coast Guard detained Turkish cargo vessel “Buket” en route to the breakaway Abkhaz capital Sokhumi on August 17. The ship had 3,000 tonnes of petrol and 775 tonnes of diesel on board. The vessel was transported to the Georgian port of Poti, and Poti court has taken the decision to sell “Buket” at auction. The crew, which according to the Georgian Border Police included thirteen Turkish and four Azeri citizens, must pay a 66,000 GEL (USD 40,000) fine. The captain of the vessel has been sentenced to two months’ preliminary detention.