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Breakaway Republics Look To Advance Statehood At Summit

October 30, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Representatives of the self-proclaimed republics of Abkhazia, Transdniester, and South Ossetia assembled in the Abkhaz capital today for a four-day summit intended to advance the recognition of their statehood.

The summit opened with a conference at Abkhaz State University in Sukhumi addressing the international practices that would govern such recognition.

The summit will reportedly culminate with meetings on November 4-5 among the region's de facto presidents: Sergei Bagapsh of Abkhazia and Eduard Kokoity of South Ossetia, both breakaway republics of Georgia; and Igor Smirnov of Transdniester, in Moldova.

The foreign ministers of the three governments are also scheduled to meet. Apsnipress quoted Sergei Shamba, de facto foreign minister of Abkhazia, as saying the ministers will discuss "a number of issues" that have gained importance as the UN's December deadline for a settlement of Kosovo's future status approaches.

A Possible Precedent

The efforts of Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo to gain independence are being watched closely by the leadership of the self-proclaimed republics.

Russia, which backs Serbia in firmly opposing independence for the province, has said that an independent Kosovo would create a "dangerous precedent" for resolving the status of the so-called "frozen conflicts" -- a term that groups the republics meeting this week along with Kosovo, and Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for what he described as "universal principles" to govern future negotiations on the status of separatist regions, suggesting that if the international community is prepared to recognize Kosovo, it should make similar concessions to help resolve the other frozen conflicts (see sidebar).

Moscow backs all three of the separatist republics meeting in Sukhumi in their bids for international recognition.

The Sukhumi summit is being held within the framework of the Commonwealth for Democracy and Rights of Nations -- a body founded by Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transdniester in June 2006 with the aim of gaining international recognition for their self-declared statehood.

On November 5, a second event involving Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transdniester, and Nagorno-Karabakh will open in Berlin. The two-day parliamentary hearing will be held by the Committee on the Honoring of Obligations and Commitments, made up of member states of the Council of Europe.

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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