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30 May, 2008 17:29

UN Security Council grounds Georgia drones

Georgia will stop sending unmanned planes above its breakaway republic Abkhazia. The decision was made after a meeting of the UN Security Council called at Georgia's request. However, Georgia says it will start using the drones again if it thinks it's nec

Searching for an opening to the crisis has taken place behind closed doors. For the second time in as many months the UN Security Council discussed simmering tensions in Georgia’s breakaway republic of Abkhazia, and as before, Abkhazian officials were left out. However, the country’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Shamba, said that even if they hadn’t been, it wouldn’t have changed much.

“Even if we’d been invited, I don’t think the council would have treated what we’d have said objectively and impartially, because it only recognises Georgia’s right of territorial integrity and ignores Abkhazia’s right to self-determination,” he said.

He added that then at least the members would have heard both sides.

If there were any hopes for healing ties between Georgia and Russia, they were destroyed last month when a missile from an unidentified fighter jet hit Georgia’s spy plane over Abkhazia. While officials in the breakaway region immediately claimed responsibility for the incident, Tbilisi still insists it was all Russia’s doing.

“Most of the Security Council permanent members reiterated their strong condemnation of the act of aggression against Georgia’s sovereignty and violation of its airspace by Russian military aircraft,” said Irakly Alasania, Georgia’s Ambassador to the UN.

He also added that “there was strong support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and for its sovereignty being respected in the future by the Russian Federation.”

Russia, meanwhile, whose soldiers serve as peacekeepers in Abkhazia, insists on the tape being produced as evidence. According to Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, the footage that was shown on Georgian TV “has raised lots of questions that still remain unanswered. Despite repeated requests, nobody has seen the original tape so far.”

He went on to say that all the materials should be shown to the Abkhazian side as well.

Russia initially wanted Abkhazian officials to be present at the Security Council meeting, but faced with Georgia’s vehement opposition and the resentment of the U.S., Moscow consented to hold the meeting without them.

According to Western diplomats, giving the floor to a separatist region would breach UN regulations – but that was never a problem when Kosovo’s issue was on the table.

“Some members apparently didn’t want the Security Council to hear the full story. It’s impossible to discuss Georgia-Abkhazia conflict by listening to only one side,” said Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN.

Yet, Russian diplomats are hopeful that Abkhazian officials will attend another meeting of the Security Council on the same subject scheduled for July.