SKOPJE /North Macedonia/, November 30. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has arrived in the North Macedonian capital city of Skopje to attend an OSCE ministerial meeting, a TASS correspondent reported.
Lavrov’s plane covered a distance of some 4,000 kilometers and flew over Turkey and Greece, although it was originally planned that he would fly over Bulgaria. The flight lasted more than 5 hours.
TASS has learnt that the Bulgarian side refused to open its airspace to Lavrov’s plane if there is Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova onboard.
"The permission is granted to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the accompanying delegation for the participation in the Skopje meeting <…>. This permission does not apply to Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department Director Maria Zakharova who is on the EU sanction list," according to a note of the Bulgarian foreign ministry.
Experts, however, think that this move is not linked with the sanctions, since Lavrov is on the EU blacklist too. "Probably, official Sofia is afraid of Zakharova, even when she is flying over it," a diplomatic source told TASS.
In November 2022, Poland, the then OSCE chair-in-office, denied the Russian delegation led by Lavrov the possibility to attend the OSCE ministerial meeting in Lodz on December 1 and 2, 2022. The Russian foreign ministry slammed Warsaw’s actions as unprecedented, provocative and incompliant with Poland’s status as the chair. The Russian delegation was led by Permanent Representative to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich.
Under the Convention on International Civil Aviation (also known as Chicago Convention), which regulates air service rules, the term "the territory of a State" is interpreted as "the land areas and territorial waters adjacent thereto under the sovereignty, suzerainty, protection or mandate of such State." As is seen from the above passage, the term "territory" does not include airspace, hence EU sanctions should not apply to transit nonstop flights and persons onboard such flights.