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Direct sailings between Russia and Abkhazia

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, August 19
Tbilisi expressed its protest against information released by the Russian media on August 17 on restoring maritime traffic between Russia and Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia. The statement published by the Georgian Foreign Ministry states that “with this action” the Russian Federation violates the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1996 Agreement on Commercial Maritime Transport between the Government of the Republic of Georgia and the Government of the Russian federation, as well as the 2008 Law of Georgia on Occupied Territories.

“It needs to be stressed that on September 17, 2009 Russia made it clear to the international community that it does not find it necessary to comply with the universally recognised norms and principles of international law and is resuming maritime traffic with occupied Abkhazia,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry statement reads.

On Tuesday, Russian information agency Regnum released the information about the restoration of direct maritime traffic between Russia and the de facto Abkhazian Republic. According to RIA Novosti news agency, in Port Adler in Sochi a permanent point was opened for carrying passengers from Russia to de facto Abkhazia. RIA Novosti reported that 59 passengers registered for the first trip. According to the Russian media, the ship, with a capacity of 150 passengers, will conduct daily sailings between Russia and Georgia’s breakaway region.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry considered the restoration of maritime traffic between Russia and de facto Abkhazia as an “open challenge to the international community and yet another clear demonstration that Russia does not consider itself bound by the norms of conduct prevailing in the international community.”

Official Tbilisi called Russia’s action “yet another gross violation of the universally recognised norms and principles of international law.” The Georgian Foreign Ministry called on the international community and international organisations to “take the necessary measures to make Russia comply with its international commitments and ensure the full and immediate de-occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.”

Representatives of Abkhazia's legitimate government in-exile assessed the restoring of maritime traffic between Abkhazia and Russia as an attempt by Moscow to “assimilate” Georgia’s breakaway region. “It is obvious that by resuming land, air and maritime traffic, the Kremlin is accomplishing its plans to make Abkhazia part of the Russian Federation,” the head of the Cabinet of the Abkhazian Government-in-Exile, Besik Silagadze told The Messenger.

“It is an obvious violation of international norms and the international community should be notified about it,” he said, adding that the attention of the international community should be focused not only on the resumption of maritime traffic, but “generally on Russia’s actions on Georgia’s occupied territories.” “We should ask our foreign partners to react to the occupation of Georgia’s territories, building military bases, restoring air and maritime traffic – it is a chain which started with the occupation of these regions,” Silagadze noted, adding that foreign states have already assessed Russia’s actions in Georgia as “an occupation”. “Now the second stage is to eliminate the violations of international law [on Georgia’s territories] and if necessary force Russia to comply with international norms,” Silagadze said.