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Georgia Dismisses Tuvalu's Recognition of Breakaway Regions

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, September 26
One of the smallest countries in the world, Tuvalu, has created a name for itself in Georgia. Based on the information of Russian officials and the media, Tuvalu recognized the independence of the Georgian breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

According to the authorities of those regions, the agreement was signed with Abkhazia on September 18 in Sukhumi with Tuvalese PM Willy Telavi. A similar agreement was made in Tskhinvali on September 19. The Abkhaz news agency, Apsnipress posted on its website a small photo of the signing ceremony.

The information is neither denied nor confirmed by Tuvalu. As Georgian online media reports an official from Tuvalu’s permanent mission to the UN could not immediately confirm or reject the report, telling via phone from New York on September 23, that she was not able to check it with her country’s ambassador, who was accompanying Telavi on his bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. She could not either confirm or deny that PM Telavi was in Tskhinvali and Sokhumi, but said that he was in Russia several days ago.

Tuvalu and Georgia have had past relations. Last September the Georgian government approved a decree allocating USD 12,000 in financial aid to the permanent mission of Tuvalu at the UN for the purpose of covering the cost of transfer of medical cargo from the United States to Tuvalu. In February, 2011, Georgia, through its permanent representative to the UN, established diplomatic relations with Tuvalu with both sides pledging to be “guided by principles of friendly relations, national sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-violability of state borders.”

The Georgian side takes any possible agreement signed between Tuvalu and the breakaway regions as “illegal and inappropriate by international norms, and senseless." The Georgian foreign ministry does not hide its surprise at Tuvalu’s actions, “we established diplomatic ties with the country not long ago and the state supported the Georgian resolution on refugee reintegration. However signing any document with the de facto leadership is unexpected and regrettable," deputy Foreign Minister, Davit Jalaghania, said, adding that it is one more sign of Russia’s attempts to achieve its goals with blackmail, "buying recognition" and oppressing other countries. This step is regarded as unpleasant but not dangerous by government officials. They see Tuvalu as an insignificant state and the fact that such a state might recognize the de facto independent regions of Georgia “indicates a failure of Russian politics, which hoped from the beginning that influential states might recognize the breakaway regions of Georgia. However the hope has remained just that.”

This feeling was shared by the opposition representative to the parliament, Paata Davitaia, calling the fact “shameful for the Russian Federation“ and stating that when such a great state as Russia pins its hopes on such small states it is embarrassing.

Tuvalu's recognition does not carry serious importance for Georgia, however it can be dangerous – a member of the non-parliamentary opposition, New Rights, Manana Nachkebia told The Messenger. According to her, Georgia should continue the non recognition policy and collaborate with both bigger and smaller states to altogether avoid more recognitions of Georgia's breakaway regions.

As analyst Irakli Sesiashvili stated, such steps are an opportunity for smaller states to get money and save themselves, “this recognition does not change anything for the state, such types of recognitions are common business in the current world.”

The attitude is shared by fellow analyst, Paata Zakareishvili. As he states, bigger and influential states should not recognize the regions however, Georgia needs to pay proper attention to this.

Tuvalu, formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean. Its population of 10,472 makes it the third-least populous sovereign state in the world, with only Vatican City and Nauru having fewer inhabitants.