Tiny Tuvalu 'recognises rebel Abkhazia, S Ossetia'
The tiny Pacific Ocean state of Tuvalu has followed Russia's controversial lead and recognised the Georgian rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent, officials said Friday.
Despite protests from the US and Europe, Moscow was the first to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- which have long had Kremlin backing and are home to thousands of Russian troops -- after its war with Georgia in 2008.
Tuvalu's Prime Minister Willy Telavi and his Abkhaz counterpart Sergei Shamba signed the agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Sukhumi on Sunday, the foreign minister in Abkhazia's rebel government Maxim Gundjia told AFP.
"We decided to publicise the statement on establishing diplomatic relations later because of possible negative reactions from Western countries, as was the case during the recognition of Abkhazia by states such as Nauru and Vanuatu," Gunjia said.
South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity said that Tuvalu had made a "courageous and determined step".
"This event makes me glad and I want to state that the process of international recognition of South Ossetia is irreversible," Kokoity said in comments published Friday by the rebel region's official news agency.
Georgia slammed the move as unlawful and irrelevant.
"Of course it is an illegitimate and illegal act from the point of view of international law and therefore it is of no importance," Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister David Jalagania told journalists in Tbilisi.
Tuvalu -- one of the world's smallest states with a population of around 10,000 people -- is thousands of kilometres (miles) from Abkhazia and South Ossetia with no known links to the disputed Caucasus territories.
There has so far been no independent confirmation of the move from the Pacific country, where the official head of state is the British Queen Elizabeth II.
Apart from Russia, only Nicaragua, Venezuela and another tiny Pacific island Nauru had previously recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
A third Pacific state, Vanuatu, said it also recognised Abkhazia earlier this year but soon afterwards reversed its decision, although the Abkhaz authorities and the Vanuatu government's official website insist that the recognition remains in force.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia effectively broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s during civil wars after the collapse of the Soviet Union that killed several thousand people and caused a huge exodus of ethnic Georgian refugees.
© 2011 AFP