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Georgia protests against use of Russian phone codes in Abkhazia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, November 18
Tbilisi has responded to its breakaway region Abkhazia replacing its Georgian dialling codes with Russian ones. “The Georgian Foreign Ministry will take all possible measures against the use of Russian phone codes in Abkhazia,” stated Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze at a briefing in Tbilisi on Monday.

The separatist authorities of Abkhazia adopted Russian phone codes this Sunday, replacing the Georgia country code (+995) with Russia’s +7940 and +7840. This move was explained by The Kremlin as being part of the “cooperation memorandum” signed between Sokhumi and Moscow in late September 2009. Georgian codes will be used in Abkhazia alongside the Russian ones until January 2010.

The Georgian authorities note that they plan to deliver a special protest note to Moscow via the Swiss Embassy, which represents its interests in Georgia. “We have asked the Swiss Embassy in Georgia to deliver a note of protest to Russia and appealed to the UN International Telecommunications Agency to get a reaction from their side,” stated Kalandadze, who added that as soon as the necessary documents are ready Georgia plans to make “juridical efforts” to annul the change of dialing codes.

Speaking at the Black Sea Economic Cooperation summit in Azerbaijan earlier, Georgian Deputy Economic Development Minister Giorgi Karbelashvili had noted that Russia “openly breaks all international norms and agreements of the International Telecommunications Union.” France has also joined in Georgia’s protest and made an announcement downplaying the code change. “The adoption in Abkhazia of Russian telephone codes is a serious problem in the Caucasus conflict which should be resolved by way of peaceful negotiations,” stated the French Foreign Ministry soon after The Kremlin’s statement on this issue. France also confirmed its support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Meanwhile both the Georgian breakaway regions and the Georgian Government are due to host a delegation from the Belarus Parliament which was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday. "Our [Belarus] Parliament is actively discussing the possibility of recognising the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and we intend to examine the situation in the region on the ground," stated Sergey Maskevich, Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs and CIS Relations of the Belarus Parliament, as quoted by Russian media on Monday.

Maskevich said that members of the delegation will meet with the de facto authorities of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and representatives of the central Georgian Government. He underlined that special attention will be paid to a meeting with head of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II.

About a year ago Abkhazia and South Ossetia appealed to Belarus to recognise their ‘independence’. Despite discussion the Belarus Parliament has not put this question on its agenda yet.