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16 Jan, 2009 09:55

Abkhazia in search of international recognition

Russia recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia, following Georgia's military attack on South Ossetia last year, but people of the new states are still hopeful of greater acknowledgment from the international community.

Although diplomats admit that international recognition will take some time, many, like Abkhazia's Deputy Foreign Minister Maksim Gungia, remains optimistic.

“There are two options: if you don't recognise Abkhazia you should propose something else. When there is nothing to propose, there are no options left, so the only way is to recognise”, he said.

In the early 1990's, after the fall of the USSR, Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Tbilisi responded by sending in tanks and armed troops. The first wave of violence swept through the breakaway regions, killing thousands, and making hundreds of thousands flee their homes.

Abkhazians could do nothing but protect their republic, even if they were outnumbered.

“We always knew that we were fighting for a just cause. We had no illusions, we knew the war wouldn't end after just a few days,” Emik Ankvab, Abkhaz veteran, said.

After the fighting stopped, Russian peacekeepers were deployed in the region, together with monitors from the OSCE and UN.

The simmering conflict erupted once again last year, when the Georgian army attacked South Ossetia. According to Abkhazian military intelligence, Georgia was planning to attack the other breakaway republic as well.

Moscow intervened, and subsequently took the step of recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The majority of the populations in both republics are Russian citizens, and Moscow says it had to act in order to protect them. Now Abkhazians hope international recognition will follow.