Tbilisi hopes Minsk won’t recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia
By Temuri Kiguradze
Tuesday, February 3
The Georgian Foreign Ministry is concerned that the Belarus Parliament intends to discuss the possibility of recognising the two Georgian breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on April 2.
Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Jalagania states that Moscow is applying pressure on Minsk. He notes that the Georgian side hopes the Belarus Parliament will take a well thought-out step and not recognize the separatist regions. “Georgia understands that Belarus is under great pressure from Russia because its economy is completely dependent on Russian gas. However if the Belarus Parliament recognises Abkhazia and South Ossetia this will be evaluated by Georgia as an unfriendly action,” Jalagania said on February 2 in Tbilisi.
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minster, has confirmed that Russia expects the member countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which include Belarus, to recognise the breakaway territories but denied that there is any kind of pressure on these countries.
“The recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is the sovereign business of the organization’s [CSTO] members. Of course we are interested in seeing our partners take this step and they know it very well. However we can’t and won’t put pressure on them, as we have stated several times,” said Lavrov in an interview with the Abkhazian Apsny magazine on February 1. The Russian Foreign Minister added that “despite the anti-Russian campaign launched by Saakashvili’s Western protectors,” CSTO countries had already expressed their support for Abkhazia and South Ossetia and participated in humanitarian aid projects to these regions.
The de facto authorities of the breakaway regions have already appealed to Belarus, and its President Alexander Lukashenko, on several occasions asking to be recognised. The most recent such request was made on December 10. Lukashenko has made several statements in favour of recognition but refrained from issuing an official decree on the matter, saying that the final decision should be made by the Belarus Parliament. Belarus MP Vadim Popov has stated that the question of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is “very difficult,” but promised to “make a decision on this during this year.” Popov noted that the recognition of the Georgian breakway provinces may have “explosive consequences” in other separatist regions in the former Soviet Union.
Sergey Maskevich, another Belarus MP who chairs its Parliament’s Committee on CIS Issues, has confirmed that the question of recognition will be raised on April 2. Maskevich considers that the future of Abkhazia and South Ossetia doesn’t depend on Belarus’ decision. “Whether Belarus recognizes the independence of these republics or not, they are not parts of Georgia today and will not be parts of Georgia in the foreseeable future,” said Maskevich on December 22.
Russia recognized the ‘independence’ of the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on August 26 2008, after the Russian-Georgian war. Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev explained this step as the “only possible way” to protect the security of those territories. Russia appealed to the international community to support this recognition, but its actions were strongly condemned by the overwhelming majority of countries and international organisations, including the UN, EU and OSCE. The only country which has so far followed Russia’s lead is Nicaragua.
In November 2008 Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Nicaragua over this issue. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili called Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega a “madman.” Tbilisi has declared that the breakaway regions are “occupied by the Russian Army.”