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EU satellite imagery experts will seek to solve Georgia drones row

Tensions have soared in recent days over Abkhazia. Russia recently increased its contingent of peacekeeping soldiers in the region, claiming that Georgia was preparing an invasion to retake control of Abkhazia.
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) May 9, 2008
Experts from the EU Satellite Centre in Spain will travel to Georgia to help investigate recent incidents involving Georgian drones overflying the rebel region of Abkhazia, an EU spokeswoman said Friday.

"An expert mission should leave this weekend, at the request of the UN department for peacekeeping operations," Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, told AFP.

"The United Nations has called for expertise from the centre to interpret images of the incidents. We have agreed and have told the experts to go. The idea is to verify and to help clarify what happened,"she explained.

"It's a way to contribute in a concrete way to calming the situation," she added.

Georgia's rebel region of Abkhazia said Friday that an unmanned Georgian spy plane it shot down the day before was carrying an air-to-air missile.

Abkhaz officials showed debris to journalists that they said was recovered from where the drone crashed, consisting largely of unidentifiable metal fragments.

Georgia denied the spy drone had been shot down, saying none of its planes had been flying over Abkhazia.

The Abkhaz leadership has claimed the downing of five unmanned Georgian spy planes in the last two months, while Georgia has acknowledged only one such shooting, carried out, it said, by a Russian fighter jet.

Tensions have soared in recent days over Abkhazia. Russia recently increased its contingent of peacekeeping soldiers in the region, claiming that Georgia was preparing an invasion to retake control of Abkhazia.

Gallach did not say where in Georgia the experts from the European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC) would visit.

The EUSC, located in Torrejon de Ardoz near Madrid, is tasked with supporting the decision-making of the European Union by providing analysis of satellite imagery and collateral data.

It is one of the key institutions for the European Union's Security and Defence policy, and the only one in the field of space.

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Georgia denies Abkhaz, Russian claims over spy planes
Sukhumi, Georgia (AFP) May 4, 2008
The war of nerves between Georgia, Russia and the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia stepped up a notch Sunday, as Abkhaz officials claimed to have downed two unmanned Georgian spy planes.







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