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Analysis, book reviews and photography from Abkhazia and the wider Caucasus — updates when time permits

Unclarity surrounding Vanuatu’s recognition of Abkhazia due to political crisis in Vanuatu?

Shortly after President Sergei Bagapsh’s death on May the 29th, Foreign Minister Maksim Gvinjia announced that Abkhazia and Vanuatu had established diplomatic relations on the 23rd and that by extension, Abkhazia had been recognised as an independent state by Vanuatu. The news was slowly taken up by various media while confirmation by Vanuatu’s government was not forthcoming. The only source which suggested that it had actually received a confirmation was the New York Times, but that could just have been a paraphrase of the Abkhazian Foreign Ministry’s statement. Of course, it doesn’t help that Vanuatu’s presence on the internet seems to be practically non-existent, even though it has about the same population size as Abkhazia (243,304 per the 2009 census).

Then on June the 3rd Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that Vanuatu’s ambassador to the UN had denied the news. Confusingly, on the same day, Radio Fiji came forward with more details about the alledged establishment of diplomatic relations. It reported that the agreement had been signed in Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila, between Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Sato Kilman and Abkhazia’s Prime Minister Sergei Shamba.

All the while, the official website of Vanuatu’s government doesn’t carry any news more recent than May the 15th. Its most recent news item however provides one possible explanation for Vanuatu’s incoherent position. Apparently, on April the 24th a motion of no-confidence against Sato Kilman had been adopted by 26 of Parliament’s 52 members. This decision was then unsuccessfully challenged before court on the 30th, but on May the 13th the Court of Appeal found that the motion was unconstitutional since it had not been supported by an absolute majority and that Kilman’s government was to govern as before.

However, Kilman does not enjoy the support of half of Parliament’s members, and during his absence a new government had already been formed headed by Serge Vohor. All this should be sufficient reason for some disarray among Vanuatu’s government institutions. It also puts its recognition of Abkhazia’s independence (if it really happened) on a rather uncertain footing. Especially so since Vanuatu has previously gone back and forth on recognising Taiwan and the Sahrawi Republic and its stance in these matters seems to depend very much on the person who is currently Prime Minister.

The news report from Radio Fiji raises one other question. Did Sergei Shamba really fly all the way to the Pacific last week? If so, he has managed to keep it awfully quiet.

Filed under: Abkhazia, The Great Recognition Game, Vanuatu, , , , ,

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