Some Legal Foundations of Independence of Nagorni Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia / News / News agency Inforos
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Some Legal Foundations of Independence of Nagorni Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the world community recognized the appearance of three new states in the Trans-Caucasus: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. But the independence of the three smaller states - Nagorni Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia - born in the region at the same period, was not recognized by anyone.

Europe's view of the subject was most aptly expressed at the beginning of July 2005, by Goran Lenmarker, special representative of the chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly for Nagorni Karabakh. He said he opposed the recognition of the Republic of Nagorni Karabakh for the following reason: "I have to openly say that we cannot allow a great number of midget states to be formed in the Caucasus. The region must have three major states that should be treated with respect".

This pronouncement shows that, in its approach to the problem of the recognition of Nagorni Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Europe proceeds not from legal, but rather from opportunistic political considerations. To make as if they remain within the legal field on this issue, the European countries have pulled following trick: they began to register the legal situation in the Trans-Caucasus from the moment of the disintegration of the USSR, ignoring all the legislative basis of the Soviet state. But if one were to consider the situation with the recognition of Nagorni Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia from a really legal point of view, one should apply the laws that were in force in the USSR.

Thus, according to the Law of the USSR of April 3, 1990, "On the procedure for solving problems related to the withdrawal of the union republics from the USSR", autonomous entities had the right to self-determination and formation of independent subjects of the union federation, including their withdrawal from the constituent union republic. The said law was quite clear about that: "In a union republic whose composition includes autonomous republics, autonomous regions and autonomous districts, referendums shall be held separately in each autonomous entity. The people of the autonomous republic have the right to solve themselves the problem of their state/legal status ".

At the moment of the withdrawal of Georgia and Azerbaijan, which had the status of union republics, from the collapsing USSR Abkhazia had the status of an autonomous republic, and Nagorni Karabakh and South Ossetia of autonomous regions, and according to the law they had a legal right to freely define their status, including the proclamation of independence.

It should be noted that not all the autonomies of the Trans-Caucasus took advantage of their right to become independent states. Adzharia, for instance, decided to remain a part of Georgia, and Nakhichevan autonomy a part of Azerbaijan.

A barrier for any possible unlawful actions that might be taken by union republics in respect of their autonomies was set up in the Law "On the delimitation of authority between the Union of the SSR and the federation subjects" of April 26, 1990. Article 1 of the Law stated: "Relations of the autonomous republics and other autonomous entities with the union republics, which they are part of, shall be defined by agreements and treaties", while Article 3 read: "The territories of a union republic and other autonomous entities shall not be changed without their consent".

Obviously, the above-mentioned laws thus established equal rights and possibilities for the union republics and autonomous entities to freely define their political status. It is noteworthy that in accordance with the latter law Georgia's attempts to give South Ossetia a new name - "the Tskhinvali Region" - and divide administratively its territory among several of its regions are unlawful.

Provisions of the said laws fully complied with the basic provisions of international legal documents, such as: UN Charter (1945), International Pact of Civil and Political Rights (1961), UN General Assembly Resolution "On the Principles of International Law as Applied to Friendly Relations and Cooperation in Accordance with the UN Charter (1970), the Final Act of the Helsinki Agreement on Security and Cooperation in Europe (1975), UN General Assembly Declarations "On Peoples' Education in the Spirit of Peace" (1978), "On the Right to Development" (1986) and others.

Georgia and Azerbaijan who withdrew from the USSR in 1991, attempted, in violation of the provisions of the above laws, to annex by force the unrecognized states of Nagorni Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia that were formed at the same time as Georgia and Azerbaijan themselves. In these unlawful actions they have been counting on the support of those countries of the world community which recognized them. This support is the main reason why the Georgian-Abkhazian, the Georgian-Ossetian and the Nagorni Karabakh conflicts still find no solution in the second decade of their existence.

Georgia and Azerbaijan claim that the only possible variant of the settlement of these conflicts is the annexation of their former autonomies, and declare their desire to achieve the reunification by peaceful means. At the same time, both countries do not rule out in principle the solution of the problem by force. Seemingly, that is why at present Georgia and Azerbaijan are actively beefing up their armed forces.

The world community can prevent such a development only if it returns to the legal framework for the settlement of the problem and recognizes the independence of Nagorni Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which would deprive the leadership of Georgia and Azerbaijan of the possibility of a renewal of armed actions.

So the failure of the world community to recognize the smaller Trans-Caucasian states created on the basis of the former autonomies of the defunct USSR in full compliance with Soviet laws, leads the settlement process to a dead end and may result in a new aggravation of inter-state conflicts in the region.
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