FACTBOX-Breakaway regions look to Kosovo precedent

Author : Mircea Birca | Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Sunday, ending a long chapter in the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia.The West supports independence for the Albanian-majority territory, but insists it would not set a precedent. Other breakaway regions around the world disagree. Following are a few that might look with interest at the Kosovo case:

TRANSDNIESTRIA – Moldova

** A tiny sliver of land on the Dniestr river, Transdniestria broke away from Moldova in September 1990. A brief war killed hundreds before Russian troops intervened. The region of 550,000 people is dominated by Russian-speaking Slavs, who pressed for independence fearing Moldova’s Romanian-speaking majority would one day join Romania to the south. Around 1,200 Russian troops remain. Transdniestria covers one eighth of Moldovan territory but is home to the bulk of Moldova’s industrial base.

ABKHAZIA AND SOUTH OSSETIA – Georgia

** Home to 200,000 people, Abkhazia is sandwiched between the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains and was once a renowned tourist destination. It fought a 1992-3 war against Georgia and effectively rules itself. It was isolated for years after the war but has since forged closer ties with Russia, which has given Abkhaz residents passports and pensions. South Ossetia fought to throw off Georgian rule in the early 1990s. A ceasefire was signed but the violence has threatened to reignite. Russia has peacekeepers in both regions.

NAGORNO-KARABAKH – Azerbaijan

** Sporadic clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh between Azeri and local ethnic Armenian irregulars began in 1988, escalating by 1992 into full-scale hostilities between Azeri forces and troops from Armenia. About 35,000 people died and hundreds of thousands fled before a ceasefire was signed in 1994. The territory remains part of Azerbaijan but is controlled by Armenian forces. A major BP-led pipeline linking Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea oil fields to world markets passes a few kilometers from the conflict zone.

THE KURDS – Turkey/Iraq/Syria

** Around 20 million Kurds are scattered between northern Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, describing themselves as the world’s largest stateless minority. Most live in southeastern Turkey, where Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas have fought an insurgency since 1984 in which more than 30,000 people have died. A ceasefire was called in 1999, but fighting resumed in 2004. Turkey fears that Kurds in northern Iraq plan to set up their own state, stirring tensions among Turkish Kurds.

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