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Moldova: Chisinau Tables Stabilization Proposals For Transdniester


The Transdniester government headquarters in Tiraspol Moldova presented a list of proposals on 30 June intended to stabilize the situation in the country's security zone -- a long, narrow strip of land along the Dniester River separating the secessionist region of Transdniester from the rest of the Republic of Moldova.

The proposals were sent to the mediators in the Transdniester conflict: Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE mission in Moldova. Chisinau conditioned the resumption of its participation in the Joint Control Commission (JCC) -- an international body exercising control over the peacekeeping operation in the security zone -- on the approval of these proposals by the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine.

Both the JCC and Transdniester's security zone were established in 1992, following a brief war between the Moldovan and secessionist forces. The conflicting sides on 21 July 1992 signed an accord called the "Convention Regarding the Principles of a Peaceful Resolution of the Armed Conflict in the Transdniester Region of the Republic of Moldova." The JCC, which currently includes delegations from both Chisinau and Tiraspol as well as from Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE, was created to ensure the practical implementation of that convention.
Chisinau has demanded a tighter border with Ukraine in a bid to curb the smuggling of arms, ammunition, and other goods from Transdniester and thus to undercut one of the main sources of sustenance for the regime in Tiraspol.


The security zone was determined to be 225 kilometers in length, 12-20 kilometers in width, and divided into three sectors: north (Rabnita), central (Dubasari), and south (Bendery/Tighina). More than 30 stationary checkposts were set up on both sides of the Dniester, with Russian and Transdniester troops deployed on the left bank, and Russian and Moldovan troops on the right bank. There were also mobile checkposts within the security zone. In 1999, at an OSCE summit in Istanbul, Russia obliged itself to withdraw all its troops and military equipment -- estimated at 50,000 weapons and 40,000 tons of ammunition -- by 2002. There are still some 1,200 Russian troops remaining in the Transdniester security zone.

Politically, the Transdniester settlement process has been bogged down for years and seems to be no closer to a conclusion satisfying both Chisinau and Tiraspol than it was 13 years ago. Tiraspol, which some time ago was close to accepting a Russia-proposed federal model for reintegrating the secessionist region within the Republic of Moldova, has recently adopted a tougher stance. Earlier this month the Moldovan Parliament endorsed the so-called Yushchenko plan (named after Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko) for Transdniester, which postulates a "special status" for the region within Moldova, leaving the determination of political parameters of this status to Chisinau and Tiraspol (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 15 June 2005). Simultaneously, the parliament called on Russia to pull out its troops from Transdniester by 2006.

Last month, Chisinau withdrew its delegation from the JCC, charging that this body wields no real authority in the security zone and has in time been transformed into a window-dressing organization to cover Tiraspol's illegitimate moves to establish customs and other checkpoints and deploy military units in the security zone with Russia's connivance. The direct pretext for the Chisinau withdrawal was the JCC's inability to stop the Transdniester authorities from blocking the access of Moldovan farmers to their fields on the left bank. The unresolved dispute over the fields have reportedly left hundreds of farmers without a livelihood.

Chisinau says that it can resume its activity in the JCC after Transdniester, as well as Moldovan, customs and other checkpoints are removed from the security zone. Order in the security zone should be maintained exclusively by the Joint Peacekeeping Force (Russian, Moldovan, and Transdniester troops) with contributions from Moldovan and Transdniester police. All sides involved in the conflict settlement should freely share information about troops and armaments in the security zone and have trouble-free access to all military units deployed in the area. Chisinau also suggests removing all obstacles to the movement of people and goods in the security zone and resuming motor traffic over a recently repaired bridge across the Dniester at Gura Bicului.

Any progress on both the Yushchenko plan and the most recent list of stabilization proposals hinges on the Kremlin's stance toward them. In principle, Russia has not rejected the Yushchenko plan, but there have already been signals that the Kremlin is not particularly enthusiastic about it. Grigorii Marakuta, the head of Transdniester's Supreme Soviet, said earlier this month that Russia is going to propose its own plan for the Transdniester conflict settlement in the following months. The Russian plan, according to Marakuta, is to be based on the so-called Kozak Memorandum that was agreed upon by Tiraspol and Chisinau in 2003 but later that year renounced by Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin. The Kozak Memorandum, worked out by Russian official Dmitrii Kozak, called for turning Moldova into a "federalized" state.

Russia's possible reaction to Chisinau's stabilization proposals could be predicted from recent comments by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko on Transdniester. The comments, posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website (http://www.ln.mid.ru) on 30 June and apparently not related to Chisinau's proposals made the same day, suggest that the Kremlin has decided to pursue taking an unwelcoming stance vis-a-vis Chisinau.

"Chisinau has taken a position to block the JCC activities and refuses to participate even in emergency sessions [of the commission]," Yakovenko said. "It is difficult to speak with certainty about motives behind such a position of [our] Moldovan partners, but one has an impression that the intentional aggravation of the situation is directed toward isolating Tiraspol and removing it from the negotiating process.... The whole difficult complex of causes that resulted in bloodshed in 1992...is now being presented exclusively as a manifestation of 'aggressive separatism' of the Transdniester administration."

In short, there is hardly a ray of hope from Moscow for quick progress on Transdniester. As regards Kyiv, it seems to be more cooperative and friendly toward Chisinau. On 1 June, Ukraine and Moldova started operating four joint checkpoints on the Ukrainian-Moldovan border. Chisinau has demanded a tighter border with Ukraine for a long time in a bid to curb the smuggling of arms, ammunition, and other goods from Transdniester and thus to undercut one of the main sources of sustenance for the regime in Tiraspol. The Ukrainian-Moldovan border stretches for 1,200 kilometers and has nearly 50 other checkpoints in addition the four that will now be monitored more closely. But even a small step forward is better than nothing at all.
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