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Syrian President Meets With Head Of Georgia's Breakaway South Ossetia Region


Anatoly Bibilov, head of Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has met with the visiting head of the Georgian breakaway region South Ossetia on July 23, two months after Damascus become one of only a handful of countries to recognize the region's declared independence.

Assad's office said in a statement that Anatoly Bibilov, the de facto president of South Ossetia, is in Syria on a three-day visit, and Assad thanked him for backing his government in its seven-year civil war against Sunni rebels and for recognizing Syria's "sovereignty" and "unity."

Assad, a close ally of Russia, which has a military presence in both Syria and South Ossetia, claimed that the breakaway region "respects the basis and principles of international law, contrary to most of the West, which knows nothing except the politics of dictation," his office said.

The Russian news agency Interfax reported that Bibilov and Assad signed a "treaty on friendship and cooperation" at a ceremony in Damascus on July 23.

South Ossetia and another Georgian breakaway region, Abkhazia, are internationally recognized as part of Georgia, but Russia and a handful of other countries allied with Moscow have recognized their independence.

Syria's move in May to recognize the two breakaway regions prompted Tbilisi to cut diplomatic ties with Damascus.

Russia waged a brief war with Georgia in 2008 over the two regions, and has stationed thousands of troops there.

Venezuela, Nicaragua, and the Pacific island of Nauru are the only other states that have also recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent.

Based on reporting by AFP and Interfax
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