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Tbilisi and Moscow blame each other for flight delays

By Ernest Petrosyan
Wednesday, December 30
Charter flights between Tbilisi and Moscow will be resumed between January 6 and January 25, Georgian aviation company Airzena having received permission to conduct these flights from the Russian Ministry of Transport on the evening of 28 December.

These flights were originally scheduled to begin on 28 December, but Airzena says it did not have time to organise them due to the late receipt of the relevant documents. “Because we only received this permission at 7 pm we did not have time to organise the flights straight away, therefore we are transferring them to the period from 6 to 25 January. The first flight to Moscow will be performed on 6 January at 12:30 PM,” stated Airzena PR manager Nino Giorgobiani.

Moscow however says that the Georgian side was responsible for the rescheduling of the flights. The Russian Foreign Ministry has stated that the Russian Transport Ministry requested necessary technical information from the Georgian aviation authorities on 23 December and asked it to respond as soon as possible due to the predetermined flight dates. “We regret to say that the Georgian authorities’ response was late. Today the official letters of the Russian Ministry of Transport were returned to us with the demand to resend them through the Swiss Embassy, which represents Russia's interests in Georgia. This demand, in our opinion, contradicts the regulations set out in the Russian-Swiss and Swiss-Georgian intergovernmental agreements [under which relations between Russia and Georgia are conducted with the mediation of Switzerland]. This bureaucratic pettifogging has prevented the previously scheduled flights from taking place, but it seems that this is the aim of official Tbilisi. Official Tbilisi is entirely responsible for the rescheduling of these flights,” said representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry Andrey Nesterenko.

The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded to Nesterenko’s statement. Deputy Minister Nino Kalandadze has stated that the Georgian Foreign Ministry responded timeously to the Russian side concerning the resumption, but permission was late being granted. The Russian side had applied to the Georgian Foreign Ministry on December 28, and the Ministry replied on the same day, Kalandadze said. “The statement of the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry is incomprehensible and legally incorrect, because it was the Russian side which provided the necessary documents late,” stated Kalandadze.

Georgian political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze has told The Messenger that political motives for the actions of either side can be excluded. “The real reason for the delay of the flights might just lie in the complicated bureaucratic connections which need to be made, especially now, when these connections are being made through the Swiss Embassy,” stated Sakvarelidze.