On May 23, Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani issued a press statement backing the potential U.S. withdrawal from the Treaty on Open Skies, due to an alleged breach of the agreement by Russia.
Minister Zalkaliani said in 2010, Russia imposed restrictions on observation flights in a 10-kilometer corridor off the boundaries occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, claiming these were now “independent countries” and not parties to the Treaty. In Tbilisi’s view, this constituted a breach of the Treaty. In response, Georgia banned Russia from carrying out reconnaissance flights on its territory in 2012.
Minister said he is now “in close communication” with the U.S. as well as other signatories of the Treaty, on whether Georgia should remain a party to the agreement.
On May 21, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo signaled U.S. readiness to pull out from the Treaty, citing Russia’s flagrant and continuous violation of the agreement, including by not allowing flights over the regions of Georgia it occupies. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg supported the U.S. position, while France, together with ten European countries, said it regretted the decision of the U.S., though shared its concern about the implementation of the Treaty clauses by Russia.