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Syrian rebel leader condemns Abkhazia and South Ossetia recognition

29 June 2018
Nasr al-Hariri (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)

Syrian rebel leader Nasr al-Hariri has criticised president Bashar al-Assad for his decision to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, according to Georgian news agency IPN. Al-Hariri heads the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as well as the opposition High Negotiations Committee, which is taking part in UN-sponsored talks in Geneva with the Syrian Government.

Speaking on behalf the committee, an umbrella opposition group, al-Hariri condemned the recognition of ‘the occupied territories of Georgia’ and expressed support for Georgia’s territorial integrity, noting that the group wants ‘these principles to be respected both related to us and to other countries’.

Al-Hariri was quoted as saying that the committee held a meeting with Georgian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Giorgi Janjghava, both agreeing on the ‘basic principles of international law and “red lines” which cannot be crossed’.

Speaking to Rustavi 2, Ambassador Janjghava said the committee plays an important role in Syria's political life and the statement was ‘crucial’ considering Damascus’ recognition.

‘Georgia’s diplomatic services are in constant communication with the international community to uphold the non-recognition [of Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s independence] policy […] A statement like this from the Syrian opposition is a result of our active and effective work’, said Janjghava.

The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary Forces, which forms the core of the High Negotiations Committee, has been highly critical of Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. The situation in Syria is to be the main topic of a forthcoming meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump. The Russia-US summit, scheduled for 16 July in Helsinki, will happen on the background of Hariri’s increasing criticism of Washington for their lack of commitment to defending last year’s ceasefire brokered with Russia.

Closed airspace

Syria recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on 29 May, triggering Tbilisi to cut diplomatic ties with Damascus.

[Read more on the Syrian Government’s recognition on OC Media: Georgia cuts diplomatic relations with Syria after it recognises Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Western countries slam Syrian recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia]

From 1 June, Sakaeronavigatsia, a company providing air navigation services in Georgia, closed Georgian airspace to two Syrian airlines operating direct flights between Syria and Russia. Syrian Air and Cham Wings were forced to use Azerbaijani airspace instead. An investigation by Reuters claimed that Cham Wings has been transporting Russian contract fighters to take part in military operations in Syria.

For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.