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The USA will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, February 9
“The Vice President underlined three key principles, which were very important for Georgia,” Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili stated after his meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden on February 8 at the Munich Security Conference. “He said that the U.S. will never recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia… He said that the U.S. will not recognize spheres of influence, which means that Georgia will not return to being part of Russia’s sphere of influence – contrary to desire of our ill-wisher. Also, the United States will not allow anyone to prevent others joining alliances and here obviously NATO is concerned,” the President added.

According to the President the United States will also continue its financial support to Georgia which is very important, especially during the world financial crisis. Saakashvili said that the US support for Georgia will balance the Georgian economy. He added that in all negotiations held between Russia and the USA Georgia will be one of the main topics discussed. Saakashvili said that US support will help Georgia attract more investments.

The meeting between Saakashvili and Biden lasted more than an hour, and the President’s comments confirmed the impression given by the US Vice-President the day before. On February 7 Biden had made a statement supporting Georgia at the Munich Security Conference. Speaking about the new American administration’s foreign policy, and in particular relations with Russia, he said, “We will not agree with Russia on everything. For example, the United States will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. We will not recognize a sphere of influence. It will remain our view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances.” Biden also said that the United States and Russia can disagree but should still look for ways to “work together where our interests coincide.”

On the same day the Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs released a statement regarding Biden’s speech. “These words of the US Vice President contain a clear message to countries recognizing force as their only foreign policy priority, who defy the universally-recognized norms and principles of international law and are guided by neo-imperialist concepts,” the statement reads. Other Georgian officials evaluate Biden’s statement as further support for the Georgian Government in its confrontation with Russia. Georgian Defence Minister Davit Sikharulidze told local journalists that Biden’s speech in Munich was “a clear message to Russia.”

Meanwhile the situation in the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remains tense. On February 6 the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs announced that a Georgian citizen had been kidnapped while travelling close to the administrative border with breakaway South Ossetia. According to the Ministry’s information a “group of ethnic Ossetians” crossed the administrative border of the breakaway region and stopped a vehicle on the Tbilisi-Senaki road. The MIA stated that the kidnappers “physically abused” the passengers of a car and then kidnapped one of them – Malkhaz Beuklishvili, a football referee. Later on February 7 Georgian law enforcers reported that the kidnapped man had been taken to the territory of the separatist region and criminals were demanding the sum of USD 30,000 for his release.

In response to the kidnapping the South Ossetian separatist Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that it “possessed information on the kidnapping and is checking the facts with all the abilities of the republic,” however de facto Deputy Interior Minister Vitaly Gassev stated that “about 15 people have now been kidnapped and remain captured on Georgian territory and the Georgian authorities don’t seem to be doing anything to investigate those cases.” Nevertheless, it was subsequebntly announced that the South Ossetian police had freed the referee from his captors and was negotiating the details of his return to Georgia.

Tbilisi has announced that the rise of criminal activity in the area around the administrative borders is the “consequence of the occupation of Georgian territory and support of the separatist regimes by Russia.” On August 26, after the August Russian-Georgian war, Moscow announced it was recognizing as ‘independent’ the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This decision was strongly protested against by the international community, including such influential organizations as the UN, EU and OSCE. Georgia has declared that Russia has occupied both regions and is “performing annexation” there.