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Ex-Soviet separatist regions take heart from Kosovo
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Breakaway states in the former Soviet Union said on Sunday Kosovo's independence would give new impetus to their decades-long campaign for international recognition.
Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Azerbaijan's rebel Nagorno-Karabakh region and Transdniestria, which split from Moldova, all declared independence in the 1990s but have not received international recognition.
Western backers of Kosovo's independence say it does not create a precedent that can be applied elsewhere, but the ex-Soviet rebel regions say that is a double standard which will be harder to defend now Kosovo has declared independence.
"South Ossetia will appeal to the countries of the (ex-Soviet) Commonwealth of Independent States and the United Nations with a request to recognize our independence," said South Ossetia's separatist leader Eduard Kokoity.
"We have a stronger case under international law for recognition than Kosovo," Kokoity's spokeswoman quoted him as saying.
"For us, Kosovo is an opportunity to once again bring attention to the problem of political entities like South Ossetia.
"For 18 years South Ossetia has been building its statehood and has all the attributes of a state, unlike Kosovo. Nevertheless, Kosovo is being recognized but the problem of South Ossetia and Abkhazia remains unclear."
Abkhazia's President Sergei Bagapsh said that following Kosovo's move on Sunday his separatist region on Georgia's Black Sea coast would be making a new appeal for recognition to the U.N. and Russia, its biggest backer.
"The situation with Kosovo is a precedent," Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Bagapsh as saying. "All the talk about the Kosovo situation being unique is an example of a policy of double standards."
Nagorno-Karabakh's foreign minister said Kosovo demonstrated a breakaway region could win international recognition even if the state it broke away from opposes the move.
Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh threw off Azerbaijan's rule in a 1990s war that killed about 35,000 people. Azerbaijan has vowed to restore its control.
"The recognition of Kosovo's independence will become yet another factor solidifying Nagorno-Karabakh's position in its talks on settling the conflict with Azerbaijan," the separatist region's foreign minister Georgy Petrosyan told Reuters.
In Moldova's Transdniestria region, the separatist parliament was expected to issue a statement on Monday responding to Kosovo's declaration of independence.
Former colonial power Russia is likely to play a crucial role in the breakaway regions' renewed bids for recognition.
It backs the separatists in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdniestria and some analysts have predicted it could grant them recognition in the wake of Kosovo independence.
Russia's foreign ministry said last week international recognition for Kosovo would influence its policy towards the breakaway regions in its own backyard.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia despite objections from Belgrade and Russia, Serbia's big-power ally. The United States and most European Union states are expected to recognize Kosovo independence soon.
(Reporting by Hasmik Mkrtchyan in Yerevan and Dmitry Chubashenko in Chisinau; writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Robert Woodward)
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