Friday 23 Oct 2020 | 22:39 | SYDNEY
Friday 23 Oct 2020 | 22:39 | SYDNEY

World best diplomatic entrepreneurs


Fergus Hanson


7 October 2011 09:07

It's hard not to be impressed by the diplomatic entrepreneurship of some Pacific Islands countries. Just when the China-Taiwan diplomatic truce appeared to be closing off one income stream, the region has become a hotbed of competition over the recognition of Russian-backed breakaway states. 

The latest development in this new Pacific venture is the visit by Georgia's Foreign Minister to Fiji (Fiji was the fifth country in the Asia Pacific to recognise Georgia in 2010). The Fiji government press release announcing the visit was a little light on the usual fluff about discussing the closeness of relations between the two counties etc, but did offer a useful primer as to where Georgia is on the map and what it produces: 'Georgia's (sic) is located on the north of Turkey bounded by Russia, Armenia Azerbaijan and is well – known for its hydropower energy prowess.'

But things haven't all been going Georgia's way. In September, Tuvalu announced it was going to do the right thing and recognise its longtime ally and partner Abkhazia (above, the Abkhazian national flag). Questions of financial motivation were clearly spurious as Georgia had offered (a rather paltry) $US12,000 in aid just a year before.

Tuvalu was, of course, only following in the footsteps of the region's vanguard entrepreneurial state, Nauru, which in 2009 became only the fourth country in the world to recognise Abkhazia. In that case, various reports had the nerve to question the motives of such a principled move, given allegations Nauruan officials had also requested $US50 million in aid. 

Vanuatu has also not been shy in affirming the Pacific's ties with Abkhazia, links which are too well known to be worth going into here (and in any event the Vanuatu government press release on recognition provides some very handy background information on Abkhazia, copy-and-pasted from the BBC). However, Vanuatu's example also provides a timely reminder to Russia and other would-be powers looking to manhandle tiny Pacific states. Pacific governments might be broke, but they are fiercely independent. As one Georgian news report tried to summarise Vanuatu's position:

Vanuatu recognized Abkhazia in May, but retracted its recognition shortly after change of government in early June; but then one local official reportedly reaffirmed the recognition. However, in late June Vanuatu, like Tuvalu, was among those nations who voted in favor of Georgia-sponsored and Russian-opposed resolution in the UN General Assembly reaffirming right of IDPs to return to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But the statement reaffirming recognition of Abkhazia is still posted on the homepage of Vanuatu government’s website.