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Georgia: South Ossetian Call For Recognition Cites 'Kosovo Precedent'

Eduard Kokoity (ITAR-TASS) Political leaders in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia have called on the international community to recognize its independence, saying coexistence is "impossible" and citing what they describe as the "Kosovo precedent."

The renegade regional parliament has issued a declaration asserting that "the Kosovo precedent presents a convincing argument" for recognition of the self-proclaimed republic of South Ossetia's independence.

Authorities in another heavily pro-Russian territory in Georgia seeking to sever its ties to Tbilisi, Abkhazia, were widely expected to follow suit later this week.

The South Ossetian declaration argues that the region has "all the necessary requirements and attributes" of a democratic and law-based sovereign state.

"Considering the precedent created by the arguments that served as basis for the declaration of Kosovo's independence, which was virtually created by the European Union -- it says that Kosovo should be recognized due to the impossibility of coexistence between Kosovo and Serbia within the same state," Eduard Kokoity, the de facto president of South Ossetia, told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, "so we also want to announce that future coexistence between South Ossetia and Georgia within the same state is impossible."

Georgia has dismissed the declaration, with State Minister for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili saying that "the so-called South Ossetian parliament is not a legitimate body, and its declarations cannot have any consequences."

This is not the first time that Kosovo's sovereign aspirations -- which resulted in the province's declaration announcement in February and subsequent recognition by dozens of countries -- have been cited as a precedent for the independence of breakaway republics in the former Soviet Union. Both South Ossetia and Abkhazia have drawn the Kosovo parallel numerous times, arguing that the approach should be employed in relation to their status as well.

In the months that led up to Kosovo's declaration, Russia -- which along with South Ossetia and Abkhazia also backs Moldova's separatist Transdniester region -- was particularly vocal in arguing the "precedent" point.

Western defenders of Kosovo's recognition have argued that all separatist movements have their own unique circumstances, and thus the outcome of one cannot automatically apply to any other.

Russian Support

Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s, following bloody conflicts in which thousands of people were killed, and hundreds of thousands of Georgians had to flee from their homes. With Russia's political and economic support, the two regions have existed as de facto republics, and have sought integration into Russia itself.

When asked if he would like to see South Ossetia join the Russian Federation, Kokoity replied: "It is necessary first to achieve -- in strict accordance to the norms of international law and today's realities -- our independence. We will aspire to this, and we will fight for this. Afterward, it will be up to the people of South Ossetia. No one should forget that we represent a small group of people, split into two. In order to protect our language and culture, we are obliged to consolidate all our forces."

The majority of the populations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia now hold Russian passports, together with documents issued by their respective unrecognized republics.

Both regions participated in Russia's recent presidential election, each giving Dmitry Medvedev about 90 percent of their vote. Georgia protested against the regions' participation in the election, saying it violated international law.

South Ossetia's Kokoity expressed a high opinion of the Russian presidential election, saying it was "in line with the Russian Constitution" and "norms of international law."

He also said he believes Russian democracy is a "specific" one that "the kind of democracy that exists in the United States or in the European Union, is not suitable, for instance, for Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and so on. But in Russia there is a significant democratic foundation, and I think this is enough."

Meanwhile, the Russian parliament is preparing for a hearing on the separatist provinces of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Moldova's Transdniester on March 13. According to Interfax, the session will be attended by the parliamentary leaders of all three regions.