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Belarusian Parliamentarians To Visit South Ossetia, Abkhazia

MINSK -- A group of Belarusian lawmakers will travel to Georgia and its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to decide if they should have parliamentary discussions about the recognizing the regions as independent states, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Syarhey Matskevich, the chairman of the parliamentary International Affairs Commission, told journalists on November 5 that the group will meet with Georgian officials in Tbilisi and visit its breakaway regions from November 17-20. He said the parliamentary group will also hold talks on the issue with members of the Russian State Duma in Moscow.

Matskevich said that after the visit the commission will decide if it is necessary to hold a debate in parliament over the possible recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Russia recognized the two Georgian regions after a five-day war with Georgian forces in August 2008.

Nicaragua and Venezuela have in recent months also recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Moscow has pressured Minsk to also recognize the regions as independent, though the European Union has sought to keep Belarus from taking such a move.

The EU is scheduled to discuss lifting sanctions against Belarus on November 16, one day before the Belarusian delegation travels to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.