TBILISI, DFWatch – The Azerbaijani government warns its citizens about visiting Georgia’s occupied territories.
The warning is more matter-of-fact than a previous warning from the Kremlin to Russians who might be tempted to go to Georgia after a visa is no longer needed for them.
Russia’s foreign ministry wrote that visitors might be systematically repressed and detained by Georgian special services during their stay. But rather than discouraging visits to Georgia per se, Azerbaijani authorities are warning their citizens only against violating the ban on visiting the breakaway regions without following correct procedures.
The reason for the warnings is that Georgia recently started to enforce a ban on entering or exiting the breakaway regions Akbazia and South Ossetia without express permission from Tbilisi. Entering through the border with Russia has been illegal since 2008 after a law on the occupied territories was passed in the wake of the South Ossetian war that year.
Arrests for violating the ban started in 2009, but it is only recently that such a case has gone as far as to court. Violations are punishable by up to four years in jail, but in the only verdict so far, the court only gave the violator, a Russian businessman who had visited Abkhazia, a fine.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan calls on the citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan to refrain themselves from traveling to those territories of Georgia, which are not controlled by its Government, without permission of the relevant Georgian authorities. Under Georgian legislation these trips are considered illegal and the travelers would be punished accordingly,” Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry writes in a statement directed at its own citizens.