SUKHUMI, Georgia, Aug. 30 (UPI) — The European Union and NATO say they don’t recognize the results of this past weekend’s election of Aleksandr Ankvab as the president of Abkhazia.
Ankvab, one of three candidates who were vying to replace the late President Sergei Bagapsh in the breakaway Georgian region, won with nearly 55 percent of the vote, Abkhazia’s Central Elections Commission announced Saturday.
Ankvab was Bagapsh’s vice president and was serving as acting president of the enclave, which is officially recognized as a nation only by Russia and a handful of other countries.
Ankvab bested Prime Minister Sergei Shamba and opposition leader Raul Khadzhimba, a former vice president, in the polling, which was Friday.
Shamba received 21 percent of the vote and Khadzhimba garnered 19.8 percent as 106,845 residents — a 72 percent turnout — participated, officials said.
Abkhazia, a small state with a population estimated at less than 200,000 and an area smaller than Connecticut, was recognized by Moscow as independent of Georgia after a brief 2008 war between Moscow and Tbilisi over it and another breakaway region, South Ossetia.
Georgia has refused to recognize the results of the Abkhazian election. The country’s foreign ministry issued a statement blasting the “so-called presidential elections” in Abkhazia, denouncing “the Russian occupation forces and its proxy regime in Sukhumi” and calling the polling a “mockery of the international law.”
Tbilisi accused Moscow of bringing in “several dozen of so-called ‘international observers’ in an attempt to legitimize the outcome of these ‘elections,’ and thus the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of people.”
EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen each issued statements over the weekend in which they dismissed the Abkhazian presidential results and referred to it as a “Georgian region.”
“In view of the reports today from Sukhumi in the breakaway region of Abkhazia in Georgia, that Mr. Alexander Ankvab has been elected as new president, this statement is to recall that the European Union does not recognize the constitutional and legal framework within which these elections have taken place,” the statement from Ashton read.
“The European Union reiterates its support to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia, as recognized by international law.”
Rasmussen, meanwhile, reiterated NATO’s “full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders” while adding it “does not recognize the elections held on August 26 in the Georgian region of Abkhazia.”
Since the cease-fire agreement that ended the 2008 conflict, Russia and Georgia have traded accusations over ethnic cleansing in the breakaway regions and both have denounced the continuing problems of thousands of internally displaced people.
The international community has been meeting regularly on the Abkhazia and South Ossetia security and human rights situations through the Geneva Discussions, by which they are hoping to establish “non-use of force” and associated security agreements.
That is something Georgia supports but Russia opposes.
The EU and the United States have called on Moscow to withdraw its troops to positions held prior to the start of the 2008 hostilities and to allow humanitarian access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“The Russian Federation’s deployment of troops and weapons in the regions is inconsistent with its cease-fire commitments and clearly threatens stability,” the U.S. State Department said earlier this year.
Source: United Press International (UPI).