Thursday, 6 March 2008

Russia lifts trade, economic, financial sanctions on Abkhazia

MOSCOW, March 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has lifted trade, economic, financial and transport sanctions on Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia, and urged other CIS countries to follow suit, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry said that "due to a change of circumstances, the Russian Federation no longer considered itself bound" by a resolution on the Abkhazia-Georgia conflict, which was adopted by the CIS Heads of State Council on January 19, 1996.

It said sanctions were imposed amid a confrontation between Georgia and Abkhazia that continued after the 1992-93 war and were designed to compel Abkhazia to adopt a more flexible position, primarily on the return of refugees and other displaced persons.

"Today the situation has changed drastically. The majority of ethnic Georgian refugees have returned to Abkhazia's Galsky district," the ministry said.

Georgian Foreign Minister David Bakradze meanwhile criticized the move saying "any support of separatism from a neighboring state is illegal."

"This is a dangerous decision as we are entering an absolutely new situation that could result in any outcome," Bakradze told journalists in Tbilisi.

The Foreign Ministry of Transdnestr, the Moldovan breakaway republic which has a large ethnic Russian population, greeted Russia's decision to lift sanctions on Abkhazia, saying that this would allow Abkhazia to "stabilize the socio-economic sector and boost foreign trade."

"Russia's actions are a clear sign that the support of countrymen abroad is a priority for Moscow," the Transdnestr Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Abkhazia, an unrecognized republic with a population around 200,000, has plans to reiterate its calls for recognition of its de facto independence by Russia and major international organizations later this week.

Russia's lower house of parliament the State Duma is to discuss the issue of Georgia's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on March 13.

Shortly after Kosovo declared independence on February 17, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both involved in bloody conflicts after proclaiming independence from Georgia in 1991, said the recognition of Kosovo should now be taken into account when considering their claims for sovereignty.

Russia has repeatedly said the recognition of Kosovo will set a precedent for other breakaway regions, including in the former Soviet Union.

The Russian parliament said in a statement in late February that Kosovo's independence gives Russia the right to forge new relationships with self-proclaimed states.

The decision to lift transport sanctions on Abkhazia will significantly increase passenger and freight traffic via Georgia to Armenia, Russia's rail monopoly Russian Railways said.

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