Transdniester - Dispute Settlement Negotiations
The dispute between Transdniester and the rest of Moldova remains unresolved. Decade-long talks supervised by the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine have failed repeatedly, attracting criticism that Russia is unofficially supporting the separatists, although Moscow has not formally recognized Transdniester's existence. The new Moldovan leadership that came to power after February 2001 elections set as its priority goal the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict. President Vladimir Voronin issued a special decree on this matter on May 15, 2001, immediately after being sworn in as Head of the Moldovan State.
In the spring of 2001, after a break of more than one year, periodical meetings between Moldovan leadership and Transnistrian leaders resumed, as well as the expert groups activity. The 4 meetings that took place so far between Vladimir Voronin and Igor Smirnov (April 9, May 16, June 20 and August 8) were aimed mainly at giving a new impetus to the negotiation process. The quagmire remains as deep as ever in late 2003 after Moldova turned down a Russian plan proposing de facto independence for Transdniester and a long-term extension of the presence of Russian forces.
There is now renewed hope of greater Western involvement in resolving the Moldovan conflict. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in December 2003 called for the establishment of an international peacekeeping force for Moldova. Meanwhile, the European Union has promised by May an action plan for greater European integration of Moldova.
In February 2004, Russia promised a complete withdrawal from Trans-Dniester as soon as hostilities ended. Any effort toward a positive conclusion was exacerbated by two incidents. In July 2004, schools in the Trans-Dniester that taught with the Latin rather than Cyrillic alphabet were closed. In response, Moldova imposed economic sanctions and left talks. In October 2004, Moldova’s Defense Minister, Victor Gaiciuc was fired for his involvement in arms depot thefts.
March 2005 brought with it an election in which Moldova’s Communist Party won control of parliament. The new parliament voted in President Voronin for a second term and backed a Ukrainian initiative for autonomy within Moldova.
In January 2006, Russia’s state-owned gas giant, Gazprom, cut off its pipeline to Moldova for its refusal to pay a doubled price for gas. Trade continued to be an issue when, in March 2006, Trans-Dniester got into a row with Moldova over customs stamps. The situation became violent in July when eight were killed in a minibus explosion. Continued tension compelled Dniester’s citizens to back a referendum for independence from Moldova and integration into Russia.
With about 533,000 citizens, this sliver of land on Moldova's eastern border with Ukraine is a virtual no man's land with Soviet-era infrastructure and no foreign investment, no internationally-recognized government to formally accept foreign assistance, and no international banking system. In Transnistria authorities generally discouraged free assembly. On those occasions when they issued permits for demonstrations, authorities often harassed organizers and participants and ordered that the demonstrations take place in obscure locations away from city centers. Permits for demonstrations and public meetings were issued predominantly to organizations and groups loyal to the authorities.
Russia favors an equal dialogue in a settlement between Moldova and Transnistria. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated this position on Feb 9, 2010 as he met with Transnistria's President Igor Smirnov. Moscow reaffirmed that all its mediatory efforts complied with international norms and OSCE principles for conflict resolution. Lavrov said that the March 2009 joint declaration signed by the Moldovan and Transnistrian leaders and the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev maintained its constructive potential, raising hopes that all disputes would be solved through peaceful and political means.
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