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Moldova: Parliament Approves Kyiv's Plan For Transdniester

The headquarters of the unrecognized Transdniester government in Tiraspol With a vote of 96 deputies of the total of 101, the Moldovan parliament on 10 June passed a declaration endorsing the plan for the Transdniester conflict settlement that was proposed by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko nearly two months ago (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldovan Report," 6 June 2005).

Subsequently, in an appeal addressed to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe, the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania, Moldovan lawmakers called on Russia to withdraw its military contingent from the separatist region of Transdniester by the end of 2005 as well as to remove and/or destroy the armaments and ammunition stored in Russian-controlled depots in Transdniester. In yet another resolution, the Moldovan legislature appealed to the OSCE and the Council of Europe for assistance in democratizing the breakaway region.
"We have long said and continue to say that we are ready to pull our troops out, but unfortunately Transdniester's leadership is preventing us from doing it because it sees Russia's military as a guarantee against...military actions by the opposite side."

Before the votes, the parliament was addressed by President Vladimir Voronin, who urged deputies to adopt Yushchenko's plan as the "most interesting and promising" of all the conflict settlement schemes that have ever been discussed between Chisinau and Tiraspol. "The plan, in a very subtle and intelligent way, sidesteps those sharp problems that have always impeded the settlement process -- the pullout of foreign troops from the territory of Moldova, the delineation of powers between the central authorities and Transdniester, ways for ensuring stability in the security zone, and the establishment of legal control over the Transdniester stretch of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border," Infotag quoted Voronin as saying.

According to Voronin, the most crucial provision of Yushchenko's plan is that it provides for the future of Moldova as a territorially and politically integral state. "Ukraine focuses the attention on a major settlement mechanism that is being proposed to Moldova for the first time as a path toward achieving its territorial integrity -- the democratization of Transdniester. Even if the plan had included this one provision alone, Viktor Yushchenko's proposal should have been welcomed warmly," Voronin asserted.

The Moldovan president recounted the main stages of Yushchenko's plan for reintegration of Moldova. The first step is to be made by the Moldovan parliament, which needs to pass a bill on the "main principles" of Transdniester's autonomous status within the Republic of Moldova. According to Voronin, this document should simultaneously determine electoral procedures for Transdniester's legislative bodies, including its Supreme Soviet. In the next step, an international election commission operating under an OSCE mandate is to organize elections to Transdniester's Supreme Soviet by the end of 2005. If the elections are deemed democratic, newly elected Transdniester deputies should join their colleagues in Chisinau in finalizing the bill on Transdniester's autonomous status -- its final version is to be approved by the legislatures in both Chisinau and Tiraspol.

Touching upon the issue of Russian troops in Transdniester, Voronin said the Moldovan people see no "political or geostrategic" reasons for their deployment there. "We think that the armed people in Moldova's security zone should be replaced with observers operating under an international mandate," he stressed. "There can be no realistic reintegration, no strengthening of mutual trust in the region with the help of armed people. We want the OSCE to vigorously support our position on this."

The first Russian reactions to Moldova's parliamentary endorsement of Yushchenko's plan were rather inauspicious for the further progress of the Transdniester settlement process. "The parliament of Moldova should take into account the opinion of Transdniester, and there should be no such situation where only Voronin and Yushchenko regulate the situation in the unrecognized republic. They have taken too much upon themselves," Russian State Duma First Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska said.

At the same time the head of the Duma's Committee for International Affairs, Konstantin Kosachev, signaled that there may be other problems as well, aside from Moscow's apparent dislike of Kyiv's prominent role in the settlement process. "Our troops are not stationed in Transdniester by Russia's own will," Kosachev said. "We have long said and continue to say that we are ready to pull our troops out, but unfortunately Transdniester's leadership is preventing us from doing it because it sees Russia's military presence [in Transdniester] as a certain guarantee against the resumption of military actions by the opposite side."

In mid-May, representatives of Chisinau and Tiraspol met in the Ukrainian city of Vinnytsya and -- in the presence of mediators from Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE -- discussed Yushchenko's plan, effectively resuming their talks that were broken last summer. Media reports on that meeting suggested that both Chisinau and Tiraspol were favorable toward the plan. However, to make any further progress, the plan needs to be endorsed by the Kremlin, which has so far remained silent on it. The official backing of the Ukrainian plan on 10 June by the Moldovan parliament apparently does not make any breakthrough in the Transdniester conflict settlement, but surely makes it very problematic for Moscow to restrain from taking an official stance on the plan any longer. Now it is obviously Moscow's turn to make a move in the Transdniester game.

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