Ortega to Visit S. Ossetia, Abkhazia

APNicaragua's President Ortega and first lady Rosario Murillo at a wreath-laying ceremony in Moscow on Thursday.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said Thursday he would visit Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which the Latin American country and Russia have recognized as independent states.

A trip by Ortega to South Ossetia or Abkhazia would be the first by a foreign leader since a war in August between Russia and Georgia, a staunch ally of the United States.

"I'm sure that in the nearest future we will visit these two countries, brothers with our people and our government," Ortega said after meeting President Dmitry Medvedev in the Kremlin.

Ortega did not give any firm dates for a visit to the two regions, which no other country has recognized as independent.

Nicaragua's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was especially precious for the Kremlin, whose decision to invade Georgia in August and to recognize the two regions sparked international condemnation.

Even Russia's closest post-Soviet ally, Belarus, has not rushed to recognize the rebel republics' independence.

"I want to reiterate my gratitude to the leadership of Nicaragua for their responsible step in recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia," Medvedev told Ortega during the meeting at the Kremlin.

Nicaragua was a close ally of Moscow in the 1980s under Ortega, a leftist who returned to power in 2006. Ortega's trip to Moscow follows a four-day visit by Russian navy ships to Nicaragua that ended on Monday.

Medvedev, who hosted Ortega in an ornate Kremlin hall, said Russia wants to build "all-format, long-term and mutually beneficial relations with Latin America as a whole and ... Nicaragua in particular."

Ortega said the visit by the Russian ships and the Russian-Nicaraguan talks showed that "multi-polarity is a reality despite what some countries may think."

"Latin America isn't a backyard of any superpower," he added.

Russian and Nicaraguan officials signed a package of agreements on cooperation in power generation, agriculture, telecommunications and other areas.

(Reuters, AP)