On the heels of signing a major arms agreement with Russia on Sept. 10, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced his country's recognition of Georgian breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, becoming only the third country after Nicaragua and Russia to do so. A little over a year since Russia unilaterally recognized the two statelets following its brief war with Georgian forces, the international community -- including Russia's close allies Belarus and Kazakhstan -- has continued to keep its distance.
Predictably, the response to Chavez's announcement from Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, was dismissive. A statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs even claimed confidently that the act would only strengthen the resolve of "those states who respect international law to continue support of Georgia's territorial integrity." For its part, Washington downplayed the event, noting that Venezuela's recognition "doesn't add legitimacy to [South Ossetia and Abkhazia's] status."
The outlook for further diplomatic recognition of the breakaway republics remains bleak. Yet only a few days after Chavez's colorful pronouncement, rumors began to circulate of a possible recognition of Abkhazia by regional power Turkey, which has longstanding cultural and historic ties to the region. Such a move would constitute nothing short of a geopolitical sea change, and despite repeated denials from Ankara, the rumors have remained surprisingly resilient.