Adventures in Palm-Tree Diplomacy: Vanuatu Recognizes Abkhazia
It looks as if Abkhazia’s de-facto government is consulting exotic tour guides when looking for possible allies around the world. The South Pacific island of Vanuatu reportedly has become yet another palm-tree-filled destination that calls Abkhazia a country, following the suit of Nauru, Nicaragua, Venezuela and, in the mostly-palm-tree-free category, Russia.
Abkhazia’s de-facto Foreign Minister Maxim Gunjia praised its newfound ally in the South Pacific for displaying courage in the face of headwind from the West, which maintains that Abkhazia is still part of Georgia. “Despite likely pressure, they [the Vanuatuans] did not get scared, but recognized [Abkhazia],” Gundjia said, Kavkazsky Uzel reported.
But, if so, the Vanuatuans appear to prefer to keep news of their bravery to themselves. The government has not yet posted any official announcement about recognition of Abkhazia on its portal, and could not be reached for commentary. Reporting has come largely from Russian news sites.
The reaction from Tbilisi, however, came thick and fast. "First, I will look up this country on a map and then I will comment on the matter of its recognition of Abkhazia," said Pavle Kublashvili, a senior parliamentarian from Georgia's ruling United National Movement party, GHN news agency reported.
Aside from courage, cash as well may have played a role in the matter. In the past, countries which have recognized Abkhazia and fellow breakaway region South Ossetia have received financial support from Russia, the main champion of the two regions' independence from Georgia. Nicaragua and Nauru, the world’s smallest country in the South Pacific, received $50 million in aid from Russia in 2010, BBC Russia reported.
There has not yet been any indication if the Kremlin plans to reward the good people of Vanuatu for their reported courage. Vanuatu relies mostly on agriculture and tourism to keep its economy afloat; it was also the recipient of a five-year $65.69 million aid plan from the US Millennium Challenge Corporation, completed this April.