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26 Aug, 2008 12:26

How Russian decision will affect world’s unrecognised states

The recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia will have repercussions both in Russia and around the world. RT looks at the hopes of other unrecognised states and their relations with the international community.

With 192 member states, the global world order is firmly wedded to the United Nations. So before any aspiring state can be formally recognised, it has to meet the approval of the UN General Assembly. And there are a couple of key hurdles to overcome.

It needs the consent of the Security Council, comprised of 15 countries and most importantly, the five permanent members of the Council. Today, there are a number of regions which are not recognised at all or only partially so.


Kosovo is the most recent example, having been recognised by more than 40 states, including the US, Canada and most of the European Union.

When Kosovo unilaterally declared independence this year, the veto exercised by permanent members Russia and China showed how the obstacles for full international recognition can be insurmountable.

To learn more about Kosovo follow the link.


The Republic of Somaliland, located in north east Africa, has not been recognised by any state since it declared independence from Somalia in 1991.

Despite its fragile status, Somaliland is in a territorial dispute with Somalia, claiming the entire area of the former British Somaliland protectorate. Meanwhile, the north eastern region of Maakhir has in turn declared a separate, unrecognised autonomous state within Somalia.

Yet another separatist movement in the western Awdal province makes the international recognition for either of them virtually unachievable. If any of the breakaway regions is officially recognised, the whole of Somalia will collapse like a house of cards.

Ex-Soviet republics: Transdniester

Four more regions, all parts of former Soviet republics, unilaterally proclaimed independence in the early 1990s. They are Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transdniester. They acknowledge each other's status but this is not shared by the rest of the world.

Transdniester is located in a strip between the Dniester River and Ukraine.

After the dissolution of the USSR, Transdniester declared independence, leading to a four-month long conflict with Moldova. Although the ceasefire has held, the territory's political status remains unresolved, and Transdniester has been de facto independent since then.

Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, also known as the Artsakh Republic, is de facto independent, located about 270 km west of the Azerbaijani capital Baku, close to the border with Armenia.

The predominantly Armenian-populated region was long disputed between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, while the Soviet Union had control over the area, the situation was relatively calm.

In the final years of the Soviet Union, the region re-emerged as a source of dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, culminating in conflict fought from 1988 to 1994.

On December 10, 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, a referendum held in Nagorno-Karabakh and the neighboring Shahumian region resulted in a declaration of independence from Azerbaijan. Since the ceasefire in 1994, most of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as a number of regions of Azerbaijan in close proximity, remain under joint Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh military control.

Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

There is another group of countries which have been accepted as sovereign states by UN member-countries, but not by the UN itself. They therefore cannot be considered fully independent states.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, situated in the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, proclaimed independence almost 40 years ago from Morocco. Since then it has remained a partially recognised state. It claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, parts of which are controlled by Morocco and Mauritania.

Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan – formed after the Chinese Civil War – has essentially been independent for half a century. But China still regards it as a rebel region which must be reunited. It only has diplomatic relations with around two dozen countries and lost its UN seat in 1971.

Northern Cyprus

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus declared independence in 1983, nine years after a Greek Cypriot coup – which was attempting to annex the island to Greece – triggered an invasion by Turkey. Northern Cyprus has only been recognised by Turkey, on which it is fully dependent.

Palestinian Authority

Israel, whose own status is itself disputed by some of its neighbours, has a breakaway region of its own: The Palestinian National Authority.

It was formed in 1994, created to administer a limited form of self-government in the Palestinian territories for a period of five years, during which final-status negotiations would take place. The interim period expired in 1999, leaving the parties without any kind of solution. The situation has been a political stalemate since.

However on Wednesday U.S. Secretary Condoleezza Rice stated that President Bush is ‘tireless advocate’ for establishment of Palestinian state.