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The Somali syndrome at the Black Sea2009-08-21 20:00
The Black Sea water area is gradually becoming the area for sorting out relationship between Tbilisi and Sukhum. After the notorious story with the arrest of Buket, a Turkish tanker heading towards Abkhazia, the Georgian coastguard detained a dry-cargo ship flying the flag of Cambodia. Afrostart was carrying metal to Sukhum. Is the ship from East Asia going to share the fate of the Turkish vessel that was put up for sale by the Georgian authorities? Will the Caucasus face another wave of confrontation, which is threatening from the sea this time?
The echo of the story with Turkish tanker Buket has not yet faded away. The ship was arrested by the Georgian authorities on her way from Turkey to Abkhazia and put up for sale. In response, Abkhazia threatened to take "relevant measures" and reported the incident to EU and UN. The international structures did not even have time to react to another aggravation between Georgia and Abkhazia, which are scarcely checked at the negotiating table in Geneva, when Tbilisi decided to act at its own risk.
On the 20th of August, the Georgian coastguard detained Afrostar, a dry-cargo ship flying the flag of Cambodia, for sailing in the Abkhazian water area. According to the Georgian media, the border police of Georgia towed the ship to the Poti coastguard base. The Georgian authorities opened a criminal case "on the fact of violating the entrance into the occupied territory" (that is the way Georgia refers to the Republic of Abkhazia - ed.). The ship has allegedly violated the Occupied Territories Act that was passed by the Georgian parliament last October.
In particular, this law restricts large-scale business activity in the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the absence of an agreement with the Georgian authorities and regulates the movement of foreign citizens. The sanctions cover all the companies that are conducting or are going to conduct business activities in the young republics of South Caucasus; it also concerns the tourists that have spent holidays in Abkhazia.
However, it is not that easy to reach the Abkhazian tourists from Tbilisi and even from Batumi located in the Black Sea region. So, the Georgian authorities decided to hunt sea vessels. This time, they are teaching the Eastern countries to obey the Georgian law. The Afrostar crew comprises seven people, all of them being citizens of Syria. Well, it is universally known that the East and the Caucasus are tricky.