Accessibility links

Moldovan Leader Lauds Russia Over Rebel Region

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (C) holds a roundtable discussion with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin (L) and Transdniester head Igor Smirnov (R)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (C) holds a roundtable discussion with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin (L) and Transdniester head Igor Smirnov (R)

CHISINAU (Reuters) -- Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, shifting from years of mistrust of Russia, has praised its role in overseeing talks with his ex-Soviet state's separatist Transdniester region.

He also said he would hold new talks next week with Igor Smirnov, self-styled president of separatist Transdniester.

Voronin and Smirnov met on March 18 at Kremlin leader Dmitry Medvedev's residence outside Moscow -- an occasion clearly seen by Moscow as a means of displaying it is still in a position to influence events in the region.

The three sides agreed that an international mission could replace Moscow's peacekeepers in the conflict zone once a peace deal is concluded. Broader talks could resume later in the year.

Russia has previously ruled out letting an international force into the region.

"President Voronin noted the sincere, constructive character of discussions with Dmitry Medvedev on seeking a solution to the Transdniester conflict," his press service said in a statement.

Voronin had long accused Moscow -- and the continued presence of its troops in Transdniester -- as the principal impediment to the conflict, one of the Soviet Union's "frozen conflicts".

Russian troops remain in Transdniester since they halted fighting between Moldovan government troops and separatists in a brief 1992 war after the collapse of Soviet rule.

The statement by Voronin's press office made clear that Medvedev's personal involvement in the mediation helped to create an atmosphere favorable for talks with Smirnov.

It said the nature of the meeting between Medvedev and Voronin "determined to a great extent the outcome of the Moldovan-Russian discussions later attended by the head of the [Transdniester] administration."

Voronin said he would hold talks on boosting trust with Smirnov on March 25 in Tirsapol, the separatist region's main town.

Smirnov said after talks on March 18 that the positions of the two antagonists had been brought no closer together, particularly on the status of Transdniester -- which has no international recognition.

All three leaders on March 18 called for the resumption of "5+2" talks organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, also including Russia, Ukraine, the European Union, and the United States. The OSCE welcomed the agreement.

Predominantly Russian-speaking Transdniester broke away from Moldova in 1990 in Soviet times on fears that Moldova might one day merge with ethnic kin Romania. The conflict has since been a source of instability on the European Union's border.

Voronin and Smirnov met last year after a seven-year break but made no progress in solving the conflict. The talks on March 18 were the first together with a Russian leader.