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Self-Determination of States

Volume 487: debated on Monday 2 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the merits of (a) the claim for independence of Kosovo from Serbia and (b) the claims of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia; and if he will make a statement. (250858)

Kosovo’s independence was the culmination of a UN-led political process, envisaged in UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (99), to determine its final status. This process exhausted all avenues to negotiate a solution between the parties and in the UN Security Council. In declaring independence, Kosovo explicitly undertook to implement the UN Special Envoy’s Comprehensive Settlement proposals, including the provisions on minority and community rights. It has adopted a constitution and legislative framework which give effect to this undertaking.

The UK recognised Kosovo on 18 February 2008. Kosovo has been recognised by a total of 54 states, has diplomatic missions accredited to 10 states and has applied for membership of the International Monetary Fund and other international organisations.

Russia recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia immediately following Russia’s military action against Georgia. This occurred without any process of negotiation to seek a durable solution. Russia’s use of disproportionate force and its violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity had no justification. Russia’s actions were in defiance of successive UN Security Council Resolutions, most recently UNSCR 1808 (2008), which Russia had supported.

Russia’s recognition of the separatist regions, and its use of disproportionate force to achieve its objectives undermine the principles of multilateralism and Russia’s own reputation as a reliable member of the international community and the United Nations. Russia has isolated itself on this issue. Only Russia and Nicaragua have recognised these entities.

The general criteria that we apply for recognition of an independent state remain as described in the written answer dated 16 November 1989, Official Report, column 494, by then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (the hon. Tim Sainsbury). We consider that Kosovo has met these criteria, but that South Ossetia and Abkhazia have not.