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Analysis: Transdniester Wants Talks On 'Federal System' With Moldova

Valerii Litskai, the "foreign minister" of the self-proclaimed Transdniester Republic, suggested on 16 September that the current impasse in relations between the Transdniestrian and Moldovan authorities could be overcome by a resumption of the previous five-sided negotiations -- with the participation of Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE -- without any "preliminary conditions."

Litskai made his comments in an interview with RFE/RL's Romanian Service on 16 September. The interview focused on the recent tensions between authorities in Tiraspol and Chisinau that followed the closure in Transdniester in July of two Moldovan-language schools that were using the Latin alphabet.

"The only cure [for the impasse] I know is to resume the process of negotiations without any preliminary conditions," Litskai stressed. "As regards the strategic vision [of these negotiations], we need to work out a model of a federal system [for Transdniester and Moldova], at least in the form of a concept. Experts have already worked in this regard. I mean experts from Transdniester, Moldova, the Venice Commission, and the OSCE. Leaning on such a concept, we could move forward toward working out a comprehensive political document. These are two steps that in my opinion are necessary for coming out of today's crisis."
"We think that [Transdniester] is a sphere of Russian interests. We are under the guarantees of Russia as a country, and these guarantees should have a military component."

Asked whether Tiraspol will object to expanding the previous five-sided negotiation format with the United States and the EU, as suggested by Chisinau, Litskai said there will be no "objections in principle," provided that Washington and Brussels decide to join the talks and to bear "political, diplomatic, military, and economic responsibility" for the negotiations. He added, however, that "apart from some declarations, we see no specific steps" from either the United States or the EU to get involved in the negotiation process. "If we want to start working [right now], we need to reswitch the mechanism that already exists [the five-sided negotiation format]," Litskai said.

Litskai declined to say whether Tiraspol will reopen the two closed Moldovan-language schools as a "concession" demanded by Chisinau in order to restart the talks. Instead, he said that the negotiation process has not stopped altogether and has recently taken a form of "shuttle diplomacy," where diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE travel between Tiraspol and Chisinau exchanging proposals and documents between the two conflicting sides.

Expanding on the problem of the closed Moldovan-language schools, Litskai said that they were shut down because they did not want to register under Transdniestrian legislation. In the past five years Moldovan-language schools using the Latin script in Transdniester, Litskai explained, operated on the basis of one-year, provisional protocols signed by Tiraspol and Chisinau. This year, Litskai said, Chisinau demanded that all factories and plants in the country be obligatorily registered as economic entities of the Republic of Moldova. Litskai said Tiraspol reacted with a "countermeasure," demanding that all legal entities of the Republic of Moldova in Transdniester -- both economic and other -- be registered under Transdniestrian laws. Two of the six Moldovan-language schools using the Latin script refused to do so, and the authorities closed them. The school registration process, essentially "of no great concern," has turned into a hot political issue, according to Litskai.

Speaking about Tiraspol's position in potentially renewed talks with Chisinau, Litskai said Transdniester will proceed from the agreements that have been reached so far. In 2002, Litskai said, Tiraspol and Chisinau concurred that they will be building a "federal state." In 2003, he added, Tiraspol and Chisinau determined "details" of federalization in the so-called Kozak Memorandum. "We do not renounce the Kozak Memorandum and are ready to sign it even tomorrow," Litskai declared.

The Kozak Memorandum was a deal brokered between the Transdniester authorities and Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin behind the back of Ukraine and the OSCE by Dmitrii Kozak, deputy chief of the Russian presidential administration. The Kozak Memorandum laid down the principles of "federalization" of the Republic of Moldova that gave Tiraspol, according to many critics of the deal, inadequately high representation in state decision-making along with blocking powers in the "federation's" central executive and legislative bodies. The deal would also remove the issue of Russian military withdrawal from Transdniester from the international agenda and enable the deployment of Russian forces in the "federalized" states under the name of "peacekeepers," thus turning Moldova into Russia's satellite state. Under ensuing pressure from the West, including the United States, Voronin went back on the Kozak Memorandum.

"If Voronin had not changed his position [in November 2003], we would already have been building a federal state on the basis of the document signed in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin [Kozak Memorandum]," Litskai said. "Now the situation is different. No new concept has appeared following the Kozak Memorandum."

Litskai stressed that Tiraspol wants Russian troops to remain in Transdniester, irrespective of whether they will be designated "peacekeepers" or named something else. "In principle, we think that Russian troops should remain here [in Transdniester]," Litskai said. "We think that [Transdniester] is a sphere of Russian interests. We are under the guarantees of Russia as a country, and these guarantees should have a military component."

Asked whether he is a Russian citizen, Litskai said that he has two citizenships -- Transdniestrian and Russian. Transdniester, he added, allowed dual citizenship in 1995. Litskai explained that in order to be able to travel abroad, some 90 percent of the population in Transdniester have other citizenship in addition to Transdniestrian. According to Tiraspol official estimates, 80,000 people in Transdniester have Russian passports, 20,000 are Ukrainian citizens, 100,000 are Moldovan citizens, and several thousand people have passports from other CIS countries.

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