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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Links S. Ossetia, Abkhazia With Kosovo

The outcome of conflicts between Georgia and its breakaway regions will depend on how the West handles Kosovo's claims for independence, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in an interview published Thursday.

Russia says if talks on Kosovo's final status were to give the province independence from Serbia, that would be a powerful precedent for South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- Moscow-backed separatist regions that are de facto independent from Tbilisi.

A referendum on independence will be held Sunday in South Ossetia.

Asked in an interview with Izvestia about the Georgian regions, Ivanov said: "It is hard to say how events will develop. But much will depend on how the West behaves on the question of recognizing Kosovo."

The United States and the European Union want to settle Kosovo's final status. They are looking at proposals that would put Kosovo on the path to eventual statehood, if possible with Belgrade's agreement. Russia opposes independence.

A Serbian province with a majority ethnic-Albanian population, Kosovo has been a United Nations protectorate for the past seven years.

Russia helps prop up South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and many of the residents hold Russian passports. Georgia accuses Moscow of effectively annexing the regions.

On Wednesday, the United States rejected South Ossetia's referendum on independence, the U.S. State Department said.

"These actions will only serve to exacerbate tensions and divert attention from the need to peacefully resolve the conflict," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.

Georgian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the rebel province are in a tense armed confrontation over the region.