MOSCOW, September 13 (RIA Novosti) - Results of a referendum on the independence of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia will have no meaning to the European Union, the EU special representative to the South Caucasus said.
South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and a bloody conflict ensued in the region. But the current Georgian leadership is determined to bring the separatist region back under its control.
Peter Semneby said the referendum, scheduled for November 12 along with presidential elections in the republic, will not help resolve the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, and that the EU repeatedly stated it acknowledges Georgia's territorial integrity.
A steering committee was set up in August to organize the referendum in order to attain international recognition of the republic's independent status. Two previous referendums - in 1992 and in 2001 - failed to attain that goal, and Semneby said the third referendum will be no exception.
But he said the interests of South Ossetians must be taken into account to resolve the conflict.
He called for statutes on the autonomy to be drafted and for tools that South Ossetians needed to protect their interests to be developed. He reiterated that Georgia's integrity and the right to self-determination were essential to settle the conflict.
South Ossetia has stated its desire to join the neighboring Russian republic of North Ossetia, with which it is ethnically and historically connected. The majority of people in South Ossetia already hold Russian passports, and the ruble is widely used.
Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in South Ossetia since the 1990s. Russia says they are needed to keep the sides apart, while Georgia has repeatedly accused Moscow of supporting separatists in an attempt to annex the region.
The West has consistently refused to legally recognize South Ossetia's independence. In response, Russia claims that recognizing the sovereignty of Kosovo -- actively sought by the predominant Albanian population in the historically Serbian region -- would serve as a precedent for legalizing the status of other separatist regions in former Soviet republics.