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Cablegate: Got Protests Georgian Seizure of Merchant Ships

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAK #1264 2381604
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261604Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0650
INFO RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI 3211
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JCS WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS ANKARA 001264

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL EWWT TU GG
SUBJECT: GOT PROTESTS GEORGIAN SEIZURE OF MERCHANT SHIPS

REF: TBILISI 1587

1. (SBU) The GOT has protested the seizure of two ships,
which, it claims, were stopped by the Georgian Coast Guard in
international waters in the Black Sea off the coast of
Georgia and taken into the port of Poti (see reftel). The
Turkish-crewed Panamanian-flagged oil tanker "Buket," which
was carrying fuel from Turkey, was seized August 15. The
Cambodian-flagged "Afro Star," also sailing under a Turkish
crew, was seized August 19. It was carrying cargo from
Turkey. According to Turkish press reports, the ships, crew
and cargo remain under Georgian custody and Georgian
authorities are demanding payment of a fine.

2. (SBU) According to Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(MFA) Maritime Department Section Head Haldun Tekneci, the
Turkish embassy in Tbilisi demarched the Georgians on the
seizures last week. The MFA also convoked a Georgian
diplomat to protest the seizures and demand the immediate
release of the ships, crew and cargo.

3. (SBU) According to Tekneci, the Georgian MFA responded
with a diplomatic note, which asserted that the seizures are
consistent with Georgian law and Georgia's jurisdiction over
its "maritime space" (see ref a). Tekneci described the
issue as at a stalemate. He added that he found the Georgian
reaction frustrating. Tekneci noted that the Turkish MFA
issues a notice to mariners cautioning Turkish vessels about
operating in "restricted areas" off the coast of Abkhazia.

4. (SBU) Comment: The seizures have received limited media
coverage and the MFA appears intent upon quietly trying to
gain the release of the ships, crews and cargos.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turk ey
Silliman

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