Apr 18, 2008

Abkhazia: Legal Links With Russia Expand

Sample ImageMoscow’s move to recognise Abkhazian businesses and identification documents, has led Georgia to respond with an emergency meeting of security chiefs. 

Below is an article released by Reuters and published by the Turkish Daily News:

Russia announced yesterday [16 April 2008] it will establish legal links with Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, prompting the small Caucasus state to call an emergency meeting of top security officials.

The step seemed certain to anger Georgia, which has accused Moscow of creeping annexation of the rebel territories, which threw off Tbilisi's control in fighting in the 1990s.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who has vowed to restore central control over the two regions, immediately called an emergency meeting of his Security Council to discuss the Russian move, officials in Tbilisi told Reuters.

"The Russian government is instructed to ... cooperate with the de facto authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, including the organization of trade and economic, social (and) scientific cooperation," Russia's Foreign Ministry quoted an instruction from President Vladimir Putin as saying.

Putin also instructed his government to accept some identification documents, [...] recognize businesses and organizations registered under Abkhaz and South Ossetian law, and to look at providing consular services to residents in the two regions.

The statement made no mention of Russia recognizing the two regions' claims for independence from Georgia. Diplomats say Moscow is unlikely to grant diplomatic recognition because it is wary of fomenting separatism inside its own borders.

Moscow has warned it will respond to Western states' recognition of Kosovo by stepping up its relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with which it already has close informal ties.

Some Russian officials have also linked the issue to an application by Georgia's pro-Western leadership to join NATO.

The alliance agreed at its summit this month, in the face of fierce Russian opposition, that Georgia would eventually be allowed to join.

Abkhazia's […] foreign minister, Sergei Shamba, said Putin's order was a step towards independence.

“In effect, Abkhazia is in the final straight before the finishing line, beyond which lies the recognition of our independence," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

In a statement on its internet site, Russia's foreign minister said the decision to set up legal links […] was motivated by a desire to protect residents there, many of whom are Russian passport holders.

"Our actions with regard to Abkhazia and South Ossetia do not mean that Russia is making a choice in favor of confrontation with Georgia," the Russian statement said, "Implementation of these measures will facilitate the strengthening of security and stability in the Caucasus region," said the statement.