Friday, August 21, 2009

ARTICLE: Independent Abkhazia one year on (

By Inal Khashig, 18 - 08 - 2009

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's one-day visit to Sukhumi on 13 August effectively marked the end of Abkhazia's first year as an independent state. Inal Khashig looks back over the year and considers the state of Abkhaz-Russian relations.
It need hardly be said that little remains of the boundless euphoria experienced by Abkhaz people on 26 August 2008, the day President Dmitry Medvedev
announced the recognition of independence for Abkhazia and South Ossetia. At that time everyone believed that no fewer than 10 countries would soon follow suit, but this turned out to be a vain hope. At the moment of writing no one, apart from Nicaragua, has offered support to Abkhazia, and this has clearly affected the official rhetoric emanating from Sukhumi.
A year ago, before the August events in the Caucasus, President Bagapsh and foreign minister Sergei Shamba often put forward the idea of a multi-vector foreign policy, which clearly did not suit Moscow at all. Several months before Russia's recognition of Abkhazia, Mr Shamba had spelt out this policy, which was to involve Russia, the European Union and Turkey (where there is a population of up to 500,000 Abkhaz, who were forced to migrate there after the Caucasian war in the 19th century). However, these signals received no support from the West, and after the European Union and the USA had reacted extremely negatively to Russia's recognition of Abkhazia's independence, the "multi-vector" thesis quietly disappeared from the vocabulary of official Sukhumi altogether.
Nevertheless, the fact of recognition and Moscow's acceptance of responsibility for security in Abkhazia was sufficient for the issue of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict to take a back seat for the Abkhaz themselves a year later.

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