After a relatively uneventful period, three recent events in Vanuatu are relevant for relations with Abkhazia.
First, on 18 March Radio New Zealand International reported that Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot had over the weekend declared in a Radio Vanuatu interview that Vanuatu wanted to establish diplomatic relations with Georgia. And Director-General of the Ministry Johnny Koanapo denied to Radio New Zealand International that Vanuatu had ever established relations with Abkhazia, stating that the document signed at the time had only been a statement of intention.
Then, only a week later, the government of Prime Minister Sato Kilman was overturned in a no-confidence motion. In the new government, led by Moana Carcasses, Carlot was replaced as Foreign Minister by opposition leader Edward Natapei, an opponent of the recognition of Abkhazia.
And lastly, one of the very first acts of the new government was Natapei’s dismissal of Ti Tham Goiset as (designated) Ambassador to Russia and the Eastern Countries, including, presumably, at some future point, Abkhazia.
Koanopa’s statement seems patently false, as the document signed at the time was made public, and it unambiguously establishes diplomatic relations with immediate effect, and Foreign Minister Carlot is on record as reaffirming Vanuatu’s recognition of Abkhazia and the establishment of diplomatic relations, with the government’s official website carrying a message to the same effect.
It is worth noting that Koanopa did not deny that Vanuatu has recognised Abkhazia’s independence, and that Natapei has not addressed this either. Moreover, Abkhazian Prime Minister Leonid Lakerbaia has congratulated Carcasses with his appointment, and likewise, Foreign Minister Viacheslav Chirikba Natapei with his. Perhaps ni-Vanuatu officials have accepted that the recognition of Abkhazia cannot really be undone (unlike diplomatic relations, which can be broken off).
It should also be pointed out that ni-Vanuatu officials have a record of issuing contradictory statements. Thus, for example, the scandal that has plagued Vanuatu in recent months is that of the super-yacht Phocea. Towards the end of February, Phocea was issued provisional registration by the Maritime Technical Advisory Committee so it could leave Vanuatu. A week later, the Minister of Finance declared the committee ‘unqualified’, because “the Maritime Authority which appointed the Committee has been defunct since 2007″.