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    Georgia challenges Russia to detain its ships in Abkhaz waters

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    Georgia said on Tuesday it would resist any attempts by Russia to detain its ships in the waters of its former province of Abkhazia.

    TBILISI, September 15 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia said on Tuesday it would resist any attempts by Russia to detain its ships in the waters of its former province of Abkhazia.

    A Russian border protection service official said earlier in the day that Russian border guards would detain all vessels that violate Abkhazia's maritime border. Tbilisi considers Abkhazia and its waters part of Georgian territory, and has declared any unauthorized maritime shipments of goods illegal.

    The Georgian Foreign Ministry condemned the Russian statement and said it would not tolerate any attempts to detain its ships.

    In a statement Georgia said, it "is determined to block any pirate-like actions on the Russian side by all legal, diplomatic and political methods available."

    It stressed that in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Abkhazia's 12-mile maritime zone, as well as the special zone and continental shelf, is part of Georgia.

    Georgia seized the Panama-flagged Buket tanker and its cargo of gasoline and diesel fuel off Abkhazia last month as it sailed from Turkey to the tiny republic on the Black Sea.

    Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said in early September that Abkhazia was ready to resort to force as President Sergei Bagapsh had given the order "to open fire on Georgian ships if they continue their acts of piracy."

    Russia recognized Abkhazia and another former Georgian republic of South Ossetia last August after a five-day war with Georgia over the latter, which was attacked by Tbilisi in an attempt to bring it back under central control. Most residents of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia have held Russian citizenship for several years.

    Under mutual assistance treaties signed last November, Russia pledged to help Abkhazia and South Ossetia protect their borders, and the signatories granted each other the right to set up military bases in their respective territories.

    Russia's Defense Ministry has said it plans to open a base in Gudauta, in the west of Abkhazia, and staff it with at least 1,500 personnel by the end of this year.

     

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