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article imageSyria recognition of Russian-backed breakaway regions sparks Georgia outcry

By AFP     May 29, 2018 in World

Syria on Tuesday recognised the Russian-backed breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent from the former Soviet state of Georgia, prompting Tbilisi to cut diplomatic ties with Damascus.

"A deal has been reached between the Syrian Arab Republic, the Republic of Abkhazia, and the Republic of South Ossetia to exchange recognitions and set up diplomatic ties at the embassy level," a Syrian foreign ministry official said, quoted by state news agency SANA.

Syria has been a close ally of Russia for decades, but ties have strengthened since Moscow intervened militarily in 2015 to boost Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops in the country's civil war.

Its decision to recognise the two breakaway regions of Georgia prompted an outcry from Tbilisi, which blamed it on meddling from Moscow.

"With this act the Assad regime declared its support for Russia's military aggression against Georgia, the illegal occupation of Abkhazia and (South Ossetia) regions and the ethnic cleansing that has been taking place for years," Georgia said.

"Considering the aforesaid, Georgia initiated the procedures to break off the diplomatic relations with the Syrian Arab Republic," its foreign ministry said in a statement.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia are internationally recognised as part of Georgia, which gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, but Russia and a handful of other countries say they are independent.

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

Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru were the only other countries that recognised the two regions' independence before Syria's decision on Tuesday.

Most Western countries cut ties with Syria shortly after the uprising broke out in 2011, and the Arab League formally suspended Syria's membership in November 2011.

Oman is the only Gulf country that has maintained full diplomatic relations with Syria, while Egypt and others still maintain low-level ties with a charge d'affaires.

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