Abkhaz Leader Meets Bashar al-Assad in Damascus

Raul Khajimba, the Moscow-backed leader of Abkhazia, is on a four-day visit to Damascus, where he met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on September 4 and signed an agreement on friendship and cooperation.

According to the Abkhaz authorities, at the meeting, Khajimba thanked Assad for recognizing the independence of Abkhazia, and stressed that the visit “is of historic significance.”

“I would like to sincerely thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to meet with you and your colleagues; the decision to recognize Abkhazia was a bold and a courageous step from the Syrian Arab Republic and its leadership,” Khajimba said, adding that the United States and the West “are sparing no efforts to challenge Syria.”

Assad, on his part, said agreement of the two sides in terms of their political views has to be complemented with active bilateral economic, social and cultural relations.

Raul Khajimba will stay in Syria until September 7. The visit comes less than two months after Tskhinvali leader Anatoly Bibilov traveled on a three-day visit to Damascus, holding meetings with President Bashar al-Assad and Prime Minister Imad Khamis.

Syria announced its decision to establish diplomatic relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia on May 29, making it the fifth United Nations member state to have recognized the two regions’ independence from Georgia.

Tbilisi has responded with severance of diplomatic relations with Damascus. A number of countries and international organizations, including the NATO, the United States and the European Union denounced the Syrian recognition.

The Syrian opposition platforms – the National Coalition and the High Negotiation Commission – joined the international community in condemning the Assad regime’s decision and in expressing support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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