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Tiny Pacific Island of Nauru Recognizes Abkhazia

SUKHUMI — The tiny Pacific island of Nauru recognized Abkhazia on Tuesday, throwing its weight behind a Russian drive to win international recognition for Georgia’s breakaway territories.

The island of 14,000 people became the fourth country after Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela to recognize Abkhazia after a five-day war last year between Russia and Georgia over breakaway South Ossetia.

“We have established relations with the world’s biggest nation, and now with the smallest,” Abkhazia’s foreign minister, Sergei Shamba, said in an interview.

But Georgia said Russia had “bought recognition.” “If someone is happy that Abkhazia is now recognized by the country no one knew about yesterday, let him be happy,” said Minister for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili.

Kommersant reported Monday that Nauru had asked Russia for $50 million for projects on the island, which covers 21 square kilometers and once made its money from exporting phosphates mined from fossilized bird droppings.

Asked if Nauru had been paid to recognize Abkhazia, Shamba replied: “You don’t establish diplomatic relations like that … although of course the entire international practice is sheer bargaining to a certain extent.”

Shamba said Abkhazia was lobbying Latin American countries and the Middle East, but the process was “hampered by mighty forces” such as the United States and the European Union.

Nauru Foreign Minister Kieren Keke expressed hope that other countries would follow his island’s example and recognize the independence of Abkhazia, RIA-Novosti reported.

Nauru, an island of 21 square kilometers, gained independence in 1968 and joined the United Nations in 1999 as the world’s smallest independent republic, according to the CIA World Factbook. It is 14,000 kilometers from Abkhazia.

Nauru has also recognized Western-backed Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 over Russian objections. Kosovo has so far been recognized by 63 countries.

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