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Russia-S.Ossetia friendship treaty comes into force

RIA Novosti

20/01/2009 14:12 MOSCOW, January 20 (RIA Novosti) - A friendship and cooperation agreement between Russia and the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia has come into force, the Russian foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Sergei Lavrov said Moscow and Tskhinvali would soon sign an array of agreements on cooperation in the military sphere, border protection and trade.

Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Georgian separatist republic, as independent states on August 26 last year, two weeks after the end of a five-day military conflict which began when Georgian forces launched an attack on South Ossetia.

The friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance treaties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia were signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last November.

Under the pacts, Russia has pledged to help the republics protect their borders, and the signatories have granted each other the right to set up military bases in their respective territories.

The treaties recognize dual citizenship, as the majority of people living in South Ossetia and Abkhazia are Russian passport holders. Russia has also agreed to unify its transportation, energy and communications infrastructure with the republics.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia have so far only been recognized by Russia and Nicaragua. Belarus has said it may recognize the breakaway regions in the future, and Venezuela has voiced support for Russia's move.

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