Kosovo independence emboldens South Caucasus breakaway republics
Kosovo independence emboldens South Caucasus breakaway
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
"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
"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
"I don't know if anywhere has been like Kosovo, which
since 1999 has been ruled by the United Nations," he
"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
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
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
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.
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
"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
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.