Pacific nation recognises Georgian rebel region
Source: Reuters via AlertNet
By Alissa de Carbonnel
Abkhaz Foreign Minister Lauds “Brave Move” by Vanuatu
The far-flung Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has become the fifth country to recognise Georgia’s rebel region of Abkhazia as independent, an Abkhaz official said on Wednesday.
Russia has lobbied its allies to follow its lead in recognising Abkhazia and another Georgian breakaway region, South Ossetia, since waging war with its former Soviet neighbour over the provinces in August 2008.
But so far only Venezuela, Nicaragua and the tiny South Pacific state, Nauru, have established formal diplomatic ties with Abkhazia.
Abkhaz Foreign Minister Maxim Gvindzhia told Reuters:
“Vanuatu has taken a very brave step and we are very grateful… It is very meaningful. They were not afraid of provoking a negative reaction from western Europe and the United States.”
He said the decision followed months of negotiations and diplomatic visits to the impoverished South Pacific archipelago, which won its independence from France and Britain in 1980.
Officials in Vanuatu, an island chain of some 235,000 people east of Australia, could not immediately be reached for comment.
When Nauru, the world’s smallest country, declared the Black Sea rebel region sovereign, an influential Russian business daily reported that Moscow had paid it $50 million to do so.
Russia denied the report, and Abkhazia’s prime minister said on Wednesday that Vanuatu had not demanded anything in return.
Sergei Shamba said:
“We don’t give anybody any money for this. We don’t have any reason to: The Russian Federation recognised our independence and for small Abkhazia this is the answer to almost all our problems.”
Russia has provided Abkhazia with security since rebuffing a Georgian military assault to retake control of South Ossetia in the five-day war in 2008.
Gvindzhia said the announcement had been made to provide some cheer as Abkhazia is mourning the loss of President Sergei Bagapsh, who died aged 62 in a Moscow hospital on Sunday from complications after lung surgery.