A pro-Russian breakaway region in the Caucasus mountains said on Wednesday it had asked the world community to recognize its independence from Georgia following the West’s support for Kosovo’s secession.
South Ossetia, which declared independence in the 1990s, called on the United Nations, European Union states and Russia to recognize it as a sovereign state.
“The Kosovo precedent has driven us to more actively seek our rights,” a spokeswoman for South Ossetia’s separatist leader, Eduard Kokoity, said by telephone.
The region’s local assembly has passed a resolution which says Kosovo’s independence had created a precedent which showed that regions desiring sovereignty should be recognized by the international community.
Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia was announced on February 17.
Western backers of Kosovo’s independence say it does not create a precedent that can be applied elsewhere but ex-Soviet rebel regions say that is hypocrisy.
Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Azerbaijan’s rebel Nagorno-Karabakh region and Transdniestria, which split from Moldova, declared independence in the 1990s but have not received international recognition.
South Ossetia, a sliver of land in the Caucasus mountains, broke away from Georgia and drove out pro-Tbilisi forces in the early 1990s.Â Â
“The ‘Kosovo precedent’ is a convincing confirmation that the resolution of regional conflicts is based not only on the principle of state’s territorial integrity,” the region’s assembly said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters.
“The 17-year period of South Ossetia’s independence confirms its viability and demands only the legitimization of her sovereignty in accordance with the charter of the United Nations.”
South Ossetia, which says it wants to “move closer” to Russia, is still recognized internationally as part of Georgia.
Almost all the 50,000 people in the separatist region hold Russian passports, transactions are in roubles and Moscow is the region’s biggest diplomatic supporter. South Ossetia has close ethnic ties to North Ossetia, a neighboring Russian region.
Tbilisi has vowed to restore its control there and the region is a source of tension between Russia and Georgia.
Voters in South Ossetia have repeatedly backed splitting from Georgia, which says the votes are not legitimate and are cooked up by Russia.
Russia, a close Serbian ally, says the recognition of Kosovo independence by the West has opened a “Pandora’s box” of separatist tension across Europe.