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Georgia withdraws from Russian obligations in Open Skies Treaty

By Ernest Petrosyan
Tuesday, April 10
Georgia has ceased its obligations vis-a-vis the Russian Federation under the Open Skies Treaty. The Treaty allows its 34 participating states to gather information about each other's military forces through unarmed observation flights.

According to a statement released by the Georgian Foreign Ministry on April 5, the move was in a response to Russia's decision two years ago to impose restrictions on flight paths for aerial observation over its territory, in particular over the areas adjacent to Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

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 kilometres of the occupied regions of Georgia, asserting that those regions constituted states which were non-parties to the Treaty," the 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 Russian territory as required by the Treaty, the statement continued.

"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 Ministry asserted.

The government, alongside its partner states, had been trying to make Russia "return to full compliance with the treaty obligations", but now believes its efforts were in vain.

Georgia's decision to cease its obligations under the treaty with respect to 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 added that Tbilisi would continue fulfilling its obligations under the Open Skies Treaty with all other participating states.