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Moldova, Transdnestr agree to continue talks on disputed region

RIA Novosti

18/03/2009 16:50 BARVIKHA (Moscow Region), March 18 (RIA Novosti) - The leaders of Russia, Moldova and Transdnestr have agreed to continue talks on the issue of the disputed Transdnestr region, the Russian foreign minister said on Wednesday.

"The sides will continue direct contacts to reinvigorate the negotiating process and the work of expert groups to develop measures of trust. The leaders confirmed the importance of the five-plus-two format and agreed to create the conditions for the prompt resumption of work in this format," Sergei Lavrov said.

The five-plus-two negotiating format comprises Russia, Ukraine, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the U.S. the EU, Moldova and Transdnestr.

Relations between Moldova and its rebel region have been tense since March 1992, when Moldova declared its independence from the Soviet Union, and Transdnestr in turn proclaimed itself a republic. Russia has had peacekeepers in the area since July 1992, and the negotiation process has been frozen since February 2006.

Hopes that talks would finally resume were given a boost after a meeting between the presidents of Transdnestr and Moldova in the Transdnestr city of Bendery in April last year. However, another round of talks between them scheduled for September 25, 2008, was called off after the parties had failed to agree on a venue.

Igor Smirnmov, the leader of Transdnestr, said later on Wednesday he had suggested to Moldova that they hold bilateral talks in the disputed region in March.

Lavrov added that the leaders had also agreed that once the dispute has been resolved an OSCE operation should replace the current peacekeeping operation in the region.

"The leaders have underlined the stabilizing role of the current peacekeeping operation in Transdnestr and agreed it would be feasible that once the conflict is resolved to transform it into a peace-guaranteeing operation under the auspices of the OSCE," he said.

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