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24 Apr, 2008 02:26

UN fails to settle spy plane row

The UN Security Council has failed to reach a decision about tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi over a Georgian spy plane, shot down over Abkhazia on Sunday. Russia has repeatedly denied Georgian claims that it played a role in the incident.

Georgian flights over Abkhazia are a breach of ceasefire agreements, according to Russia's Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin.

“Sending this drone across the security zone of the conflict area was an inadmissible act. It contradicts Moscow agreements of 1994 and the Security Council resolution adopted just days ago that prohibit unannounced military activities. It was a provocative military operation which the Abkhazian side had every ground to regard as threatening,” he said.

Last Sunday the Abkhazian air force claimed it shot down the Georgian drone over its territory. Tbilisi at first denied losing the spy plane, but then it accused Russia of shooting it down.

In an exclusive interview with Russia Today, Abkhazian leader Sergey Bagapsh said that Georgia is constantly breaching agreements that have been signed.

“A year ago we asked the UN mission and the military observers and peacemakers to influence Georgia to stop reconnaissance flights over Abkhazia. We wanted to avoid any tension. But the planes kept on coming, and taking photos,” he said.

Bagapsh also added that the international community and the UN Security Council should rather look at why these planes are flying over Abkhazian territory, and who's sending them.

“Georgia sees the hand of Moscow everywhere. But there were no Russian planes there. It was our air force that shot the craft down,” Sergey Bagapsh said.

The Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili claims that many questions over the incident remain unanswered.

“Unarmed Georgian drones have flown and will continue flying over Georgian territory and it's no one's business, including Russia. What was a Russian MIG-29 doing in Gudauta, where the military base had long been closed by Russia itself? And what was it doing in Georgian air space? Why was it arming at our unarmed aircraft over our villages?” a furious Mikhail Saakashvili asked at a recent meeting of Georgia’s Security Council.

The latest emergency session of the UN Security Council was called by Tbilisi after Russia pledged closer ties with two Georgian breakaway regions.

In an unofficial statement, Great Britain, France, Germany and the United States urged Russia to retract its decision.
Abkhazia gained de-facto independence after a military conflict with Georgia in the early 90s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has not been recognised by the international community. UN peacekeepers are monitoring the unofficial Georgia-Abkhazia border.