Sunday 20 December 2009
Source: The Moscow Times.
Tiny Nauru on Wednesday completed its debut on the big battlefront of Caucasus politics by becoming the fourth country to recognize both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.
A treaty establishing the Pacific island nation’s diplomatic relations with South Ossetia was signed in Moscow, said South Ossetia envoy Dmitry Medoyev, who signed the document. The other signatory was Kieren Keke, Nauru’s foreign minister who had just arrived from Abkhazia, where he had signed a similar agreement Tuesday.
Ossetia is an ethno-linguistic region located on both sides of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, largely inhabited by the Ossetians, an Iranian people who speak the Ossetian language (an Eastern Iranian language, Indo-European group of languages). The Ossetian-speaking area south to the main Caucasus ridge is recognized by most countries as within the borders of Georgia, but under the control of the Russian-backed de facto government of the Republic of South Ossetia. The northern portion of the region consists of the republic of North Ossetia-Alania within the Russian Federation.
Nauru’s recognition prompted a war of words between the governments in Tbilisi and Moscow. Medoyev echoed those comments, saying in an interview that Nauru had merely exerted its sovereign right under the charter of the United Nations.
National and international media have mocked the fact that after Moscow’s lobbying for more than a year, a destitute Pacific nation with barely more than 10,000 inhabitants occupying 21 km² has become the third country to follow its lead in recognizing the separatist regions. The other countries are Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Medoyev dismissed a media report as “rumours” that Nauru had asked Moscow for $50 million in aid in exchange for its recognition.
Nauru is located about 14,000 kilometres from the Caucasus. Nauru has made headlines before for its seemingly opportunistic recognition policies. In 2002, it severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favour of relations with China, which, according to the U.S. State Department’s web site, had promised more than $130 million in aid. Three years later, the island switched sides again, and Taiwan subsequently rescued Nauru’s airline from bankruptcy. Currently, Nauru’s government web site boasts a banner saying: «Sponsored by the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan).»
South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity said another 10 countries would soon follow suit. «The process of recognizing South Ossetia’s independence is irreversible», he told Interfax.
The Ossetians are originally descendants of the Alans, a Sarmatian tribe. They became Christians during the early Middle Ages, under the Byzantine, Georgian and Russian influences. Under Mongol rule, they were pushed out of their medieval homeland south of the Don River in present-day Russia and part migrated towards and over the Caucasus mountains (into the kingdom of Georgia and into the lands of present-day North Ossetia-Alania), where they formed three distinct territorial entities. Digor in the west came under the influence of the neighbouring Kabard people, who introduced Islam. Kudar in the south became what is now South Ossetia where Ossetians found refuge from Mongol invaders. Iron in the north became what is now North Ossetia, under Russian rule from 1767. The vast majority of the Ossetians are Orthodox Christians; there is also a significant Muslim minority.