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18 Dec, 2008 19:32

Nicaraguan President committed to visiting South Ossetia & Abkhazia

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has expressed a wish to visit South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Nicaragua was the second state, after Russia, to recognise the independence of the two republics.

“I am sure that we will visit the two fraternal countries in the near future,” he told a news conference, following negotiations with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday.

“We fully support Russia's stance on South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” Ortega also said before adding: “We have solidarity with those peoples.”

“I would like to thank our Nicaraguan partners for their position, for recognising the legal standing of South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” Medvedev responded. “Without a doubt, this decision will help strengthen international law across the whole world.”

Nicaraguan President has also stressed he supports the stance that a unipolar world is coming to an end.

“We can’t say for sure that unipolarity does not exist any more, but every day the world is becoming more and more multipolar. Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Latin America and the meetings he held there are the best proof that we are living in a new era of Russia-Latin America relations,” Ortega said.

Mutual trade, energy, space and agriculture have been on the agenda for the talks, and a package of memorandums on cooperation has been signed by the two sides.

A hydropower plant, an airport and a canal to link the two oceans are just some of the projects that have been on the table.

Also, Russia and Nicaragua are drafting an agreement on visa-free travel, according to President Dmitry Medvedev. “The agreements will be ready soon,” he stressed, referring to a visa-free travel accord.

Some experts suggest that the political value of the new alliance so far outstrips its economic benefits.

“For Russia cooperation with Latin America is one of the priorities in foreign policy. Russia strives to establish partnership ties with all Latin American countries, and it is not our aim to push the U.S. out. If other countries would like to join our cooperation, we would work on them. It is by no means our intention to squeeze other partners out,” said Maria Kusakina, an expert on Latin America from Moscow State University.

The Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega Saavedra is in Moscow after a 20-year hiatus in a bid to revive old ties between the two countries. Russian – Nicaraguan diplomatic relationships started more than 60 years ago and developed actively after the revolutionary Sandinista government came to power in Nicaragua in 1979.

Since then, until the turbulent 1990s, Nicaragua was the second most important strategic partner of the Soviet Union in Latin America after Cuba.

However, in the nineties, when the political and economical landscapes of both countries started to change, contacts between the sides declined dramatically.

Trade turnover shrank from $US 230 million to $US 6.8 million last year. In the first nine months of this year, it constituted only $US 5.6 million.

It was only in 2007, when Ortega became president again, that relations began to revive.

Being among the leaders of a Sandinista rebellion to overthrow Nicaragua’s dictator Anastasio Somoza, Ortega won the presidential elections in 1985 and was in power until 1990 when he was defeated by Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.

An ardent leftist and atheist in the past, Daniel Ortega is now a devoted catholic and can even be called a moderate politician.

Vladimir Travkin from the Latin America Magazine met Daniel Ortega several times and calls him “a man of compromise”. He says that’s what helped Ortega return to office in 2007.

“He created a coalition. First he reconciled with the Catholic Church. Nicaragua is extremely religious,” he said. “Then his candidate for vice president was the leader of Contras, the U.S. backed guerillas who fought against Ortega and his counterparts. And he softened his anti-American rhetoric.”

Ortega returned to Russian political headlines in September, following the conflict in the Caucasus. Nicaragua was the only country besides Russia that recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

Just last week Russian warships docked at Nicaragua’s port. Even though this stopover caused heated debates among the country’s lawmakers, Ortega permitted the vessels to enter.

A high-ranking Kremlin source was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying that the two heads of state will discuss cooperation in the spheres of energy, space exploration and agriculture. A package of documents on the cooperation of development has been prepared for signing.