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Georgia cuts Tuvalu links in row over rebels

Georgia has cut diplomatic ties with the tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu after it recognised the Russian-backed rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent, officials said Friday.

“The president has issued an order to cut diplomatic ties with Tuvalu,” Georgian foreign ministry spokesman Irakli Vekua told AFP.

One of the world’s smallest states with a population of around 10,000, Tuvalu recognised Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states in September 2011, although it is thousands of kilometres (miles) from the disputed Caucasus territories.

After the Georgia-Russia war in 2008, Moscow was first to recognise the two small provinces which have long had Kremlin backing and are home to thousands of Russian troops — a move only followed by Nicaragua, Venezuela and another tiny Pacific island, Nauru.

A third Pacific state, Vanuatu, also said it recognised Abkhazia last year but then appeared to reverse its decision, although the Abkhaz authorities and the Vanuatu government’s website insist that the recognition remains in force.

Georgia has accused Russia of offering bribes in return for recognition, and in recent months has been striving to establish formal diplomatic ties with as many small states around the world as possible in an attempt to head off any further recognition moves.

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.