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Russia Welcomes Vanuatu-Abkhazia Diplomatic Relations

Russia welcomed Vanuatu establishing diplomatic ties with Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, calling it an important step in Abkhazia’s campaign for greater global recognition.

“We view this in the context of expanding Abkhazia’s autonomy in international relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters in Moscow today. “It is a success for the young Abkhaz state.”

Vanuatu, a Pacific island nation that lies about 1,500 miles northeast of Sydney, Australia, has become the fifth country to recognize Abkhazia’s independence, agreeing to set up diplomatic relations with the self-declared republic, according to a May 27 statement on the Abkhazian Foreign Ministry’s website.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another separatist region of Georgia, declared independence after a five-day war between Russia and the former Soviet satellite state in August, 2008. Only Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru, another country in the South Pacific, recognize their independence. Georgia maintains Russia occupied the two regions after the conflict.

Georgia won’t comment on the issue until it receives “official notification” from Vanuatu that ties have been established, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ia Makharashvili said by phone from the capital, Tbilisi. It may just be “speculation,” she said.

Visa-Free Travel

Jean Sese, director general of Vanuatu’s Foreign Ministry, wouldn’t confirm the country had recognized Abkhazia when contacted by mobile phone today from the capital, Port Vila. Vanuatu was a British-French colony until it gained independence in 1990. Of the nation’s 200,000 inhabitants, around 10 percent still follow a traditional, pre-colonial existence closed to outsiders.

Citizens of Abkhazia and Vanuatu will be granted visa-free travel between the two countries under the agreement to set up diplomatic relations signed on May 23, the Abkhazian Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website yesterday.

Abkhazia is also building educational and cultural ties with the European state of San Marino, an enclave surrounded by Italy, Abkhazian Foreign Minister Maxim Gvindzhia said May 17, according to a statement on the ministry’s website. Recognition of Abkhazia’s independence by San Marino is “not on the agenda,” he said.

Fiji, the largest Pacific island nation after New Zealand, hasn’t been approached by Abkhazia or Russia about recognizing the region, Foreign Minister Inoke Kubuabola said by phone from Seoul, South Korea today.

To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net; Emma O’Brien at eobrien6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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