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Kosovo independence emboldens South Caucasus breakaway republics

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://euobserver.com/9/25683/?rk=1 Kosovo independence emboldens South Caucasus breakaway republics 18.02.2008 - 17:42 CET | By Leigh Phillips Georgia s
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 19, 2008
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      http://euobserver.com/9/25683/?rk=1

      Kosovo independence emboldens South Caucasus breakaway
      republics

      18.02.2008 - 17:42 CET | By Leigh Phillips
      Georgia's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South
      Ossetia are to ask Russia and the United Nations to
      recognise their own independence in the wake of
      Sunday's unilateral declaration of independence by
      Kosovo.

      "In the near future, Abkhazia will appeal to the
      Russian parliament and the UN security council with a
      request to recognise its independence," said Abkhaz
      president Sergei Bagapsh on Monday (18 February),
      according to Russian newswire Interfax.


      "If anyone thinks that Abkhazia, South Ossetia and
      Transdniestria will stop after the recognition of
      Kosovo, they are making a big mistake," he said.

      Using almost identical language, South Ossetian
      president Eduard Kokoity issued a similar
      pronouncement.

      "South Ossetia will in the near future appeal to the
      Commonwealth of Independent States and the UN with a
      request to recognise our independence," he said.

      But the European Commission has said that Kosovo is a
      "unique case" and cannot be taken as a precedent for
      the South Caucasus.

      "Kosovo is not a blueprint that can be applied to any
      other area,'' said external relations commissioner
      Benita Ferrero-Waldner replying to a question on the
      breakaway Georgian regions during a press conference
      in Brussels where EU ministers on Monday were
      discussing Kosovo's self-proclaimed independence.

      EU Council secretary-general Javier Solana said the
      Kosovo case was sui generis, distinct from other
      regions.

      "I don't know if anywhere has been like Kosovo, which
      since 1999 has been ruled by the United Nations," he
      said.

      "When we talk about [Kosovo being] a sui generis
      situation, this is so evident that those who don't see
      it, don't see it because they don't want to look at
      it."

      For his part, Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili
      warned against stirring up tensions in the region.

      "I do not advise anyone to even put a nose into this
      issue and to escalate tensions. We want to resolve all
      the issues peacefully – we do not need any unrests now
      – but Georgia will not step back," he stated.

      Last week Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov met
      the leaders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to discuss
      their own conflicts and how they relate to Kosovo's
      declaration.

      A Kremlin source, quoted by Russian daily, Kommersant,
      said that there is to be a change in the relationship
      between Russia and Abkhazia and South Ossetia with
      Russia intending to open "representations" in the two
      regions.

      While Russia has delivered military support to the
      breakaway republics, it has up to now stopped short of
      recognition of the Republic of South Ossetia or the
      Republic of Abkhazia.

      "Chancers"
      Andrew Stroehlein, of the International Crisis Group,
      told the EUobserver: "Many others who might try to
      claim independence seem like chancers. They can try
      their luck, but they're not going to get the
      international recognition that Kosovo will."

      "There have been human rights abuses, but none of the
      break-away states in the region have faced the massive
      ethnic cleansing that Belgrade perpetrated on Kosovo.

      "None of these regions has been the subject of a UN
      resolution like Resolution 1244, which in 1999
      explicitly called for the final legal status of Kosovo
      to be determined in future.

      Mr Stroehlein also warned against thinking Russia is
      strongly supportive of Kosovo setting an international
      precedent in all circumstances, as it too has its own
      separatist regions.

      "Russia's in a precarious situation itself," he said.
      "Perhaps it wants Kosovo to be a precedent for the
      Russia-friendly breakaway republics in the South
      Caucasus, but it certainly doesn't want it to be a
      precedent for Chechnya."

      The leaders of Ngorno-Karabakh have also expressed
      their hope that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of
      independence would set a precedent for their own
      unrecognised South Caucasian republic, officially part
      of Azerbaijan.

      Nevertheless, Russia did not mention Ngorno-Karabakh
      when it last week listed the unrecognised republics
      within the former Soviet Union's sphere of influence
      whose status would be affected by the Kosovar
      announcement, referring only to South Ossetia,
      Abkhazia and the Transdniester region in Moldova.
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