are back in the South Pacific
are back in the Pacific in manoeuvres that started during the Rugby World Cup
involving cash in envelopes and promises of more to come.
money is to recognise non-existent states Abkhaz and South Ossetia. Rival
money is being paid to say they do not exist.
diplomatic game has left Pacific experts concerned that the region is being
destabilised by a phoney war fought in the Caucasus which began with the 1991
collapse of the Soviet Union when Georgia declared its independence.
Black Sea region of Abkhazia tried to break away but most of the world sees is
as part of Georgia. A 1992-93 war saw Abkhaz and Russian forces drive
also helped the mountainous South Ossetia region through several conflicts to
proclaim an independent state.
matters as each state's vote in the United Nations is as good as any other.
noticed during the RWC, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and rival
Georgian Minister Grigol Vashadze worked the sidelines and used the Auckland
Pacific Forum summit to show their wares.
sources at the summit said the Caucasus rivals had cash in private envelopes
and more visible offers of aid.
spoils went to Russia with the world's smallest state, Nauru, recognising
Abkhaz and South Ossetia.
felt they had the second largest nation, Tuvalu, and they gave them US$12,000
(NZ$15,400) in medical equipment last year to back a UN resolution calling for
the return of displaced ethnic Georgians to Abkhazia.
Tuvalu's nod proved to be for sale and after Tuvalu Prime Minister Willy
Telavi met Lavrov, they switched sides.
new ambassador to the Pacific, Juris Gulbis, told Bloomberg their response of
giving water aid to drought afflicted Tuvalu was as "a genuine emergency,
our principles prevent us from exploiting human hardship for political
months ago Abkhazia announced it had been recognised by Vanuatu but a day or
so later Vanuatu said it was not so.
UN ambassador Donald Kalpokas told the New York Times this was not
don't know who is responsible for declaring that this is true. As far as we
are concerned, we are dealing with Georgia, not Abkhazia. It is defamation for
our country. This is disrespect."
RWC, Georgia's Vashadze flew to Fiji's dictator Voreqe Bainimarama offering
six scholarships and 100 school books. He also promised a mining industry.
week the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said Russia's activities
involved more than just UN vote buying and in a paper say it looks like the
millions involved are also aimed at getting fishing access.
parliamentary secretary for Pacific island affairs Richard Marles is annoyed
at the cheque book diplomacy.
would be naive to think this kind of behaviour could go on in the Pacific
undetected," he told Bloomberg.
this boils down to is Russia taking advantage of very small, pretty vulnerable
countries to pursue agendas which have very little to do with the
the 1970s then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon and then David Lange are various
times expressed alarm over Soviet involvement in the South Pacific.
time around, it has gone unnoticed in Wellington.