Independent observer: Georgian authorities can’t do without provocations07.09.2009 | 22:39
Today is the start of Turkish FM Akhmed Davutoglu's working visit to Tbilisi. The Minister plans to discuss detention of Buket tanker in the neutral waters and her captain Mekhmen Oztyurk's severe sentence to 24 years' imprisonment. In the meantime some media report that the Georgian side doesn't mind releasing the captain for a fine. It seems Ankara's discontent has had its effect.
As early as last week the Turkish foreign ministry offered a tough reaction to Buket tanker's detention and the ruling of the court of Poti against her captain. As Reuters reports, an unnamed source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized Georgia's violation of the law of the sea and Ankara's intention to put diplomatic pressure and press for remission of the sentence against the Turkish tanker's captain.
This is the reason why Turkey's FM Akmed Davutoglu went to Tbilisi planning to meet the country's PM Nika Gilauri, Chairman of Parliament David Bakradze and his Georgian counterpart Grigol Vashadze, Caucasian Knot reports.
Curiously enough, before Davutoglu's arrival the media presented the information that could change the sentence of Buket tanker's captain from 24 years' imprisonment for "gross violation of customs regulation on entry into the occupied territory" for a USD 18.000 money penalty.
The Georgian side has already discharged 16 crew members from custody. In the nearest future the sailors are expected back home. By the way they gave some curious details. A representative of the Turkish company - the Buket owner - said the vessel had been seized а la Somali pirates" - in the international zone, 96 km from the Turkish port of Sinop and at the time of detention Georgian border guards used a motor boat with no marking on it that would confirm its appurtenance to Georgia's state authority, Rosbalt reports. Moreover, on boarding the Turkish tanker the officers introduced themselves as Russian militaries and under threat of arms took over control of the vessel.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has already reacted to this statement. It was emphasized in Smolenskaya square that the detention of the commercial vessel in the neutral waters under false pretence is first of all the violation of principle of the freedom of the open sea envisaged by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. "The method the Georgian "law-enforcers" made use of by claiming to be Russian militaries arouses our strong resentment", - RBC quotes the message. Moscow called on Tbilisi to stop illegal actions in neutral waters and asked the republic for to present explanations through mediation of Switzerland.
In reply the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs contradicted the disseminated information on illegal detention accusing Russia of loud statements "without any grounds", Georgian media report. It is also highlighted in the ministry that the motor boat of the Georgian Coastal Guard allegedly had state marking, the Georgian officers were wearing relevant uniform of the Georgian authority and the Turkish vessel crew had no trouble identifying them as the Georgian Coastal Guard employees. Tbilisi has already called on Russia to disprove the information on illegal detention.
Moscow however is not going back on its words. Sukhum too is very resolute. Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh remarked: "How can we deal with this Georgian leadership today when the tanker that was carrying petrol here was seized? - Gazeta.ru quotes. - We can't be involved in this kind of crime like Georgia is. There are pirates in Somali, now they have appeared in Georgia". Bagapsh promised Abkhazia had a possibility to oppose that.
Sergey Shamba, Abkhaz Foreign Minister underlined the European Union and Turkey didn't favor such policy in Georgia. "I'm sure sooner or later they will change their mind and stop dancing to the tune of not quite sane Georgian politicians", - he said. However according to Viktor Litovkin, the Independent Military Review Deputy Executive Editor, Tbilisi is deliberately pursuing this policy. He thinks Georgia's current authorities can't do without provocations. "An external threat has to be found to shuffle the blame for all problems onto it", - kommentarii.ru quotes. - It is not impossible Saakashvili regime is asking for a blow of retaliation on its ships both from Abkhazia and Russia in order to start wailing about "babies being beaten" and again ask the USA for help".
However that may be now the Georgian authorities will have to offer explanations to Turkey. And new details in the tanker case will most certainly emerge.
(Photo by Scanpix)