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OSCE Supports Moldova's Territorial Integrity

Vienna, Feb. 2 (RFE/RL) - The Chairman of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Flavio Cotti, has welcomed the recent joint declaration by Russia, Ukraine and Moldova as a step toward ending the Dniestr conflict. Cotti, who is also Switzerland's Foreign Minister, described the declaration as "an important step forward in promoting a peaceful negotiated settlement of the conflict over the Dniestr region."

Cotti's comment was made at yesterday's meeting in Vienna of the OSCE Permanent Council, which discussed the situation in Moldova. Cotti visited the region on January 16th.

Trouble erupted in the Dniestr region in 1992, following the break-up of the Soviet Union, when pro-Moscow separatists in Dniestr declared their independence from Moldova. It led to a five-month war, which ended with a Moscow-brokered truce in July 1992. The Dniestr region is populated by Moldovans, ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians.

The region's Slavic-dominated leadership feared sentiment in Moldova's parliament, which - at the time - favored re-unification with Romania.

The joint declaration by Russia, Ukraine and Moldova was made on January 19th at the CIS summit in Moscow. In the declaration, Presidents Boris Yeltsin, Leonid Kuchma and Mircea Snegur recognised the Dniestr region as a constituent part of Moldova, but said they would support a special status for the Dniestr region within Moldova.

Their statement came two days after the President of the self-proclaimed Dniestr Republic, Igor Smirnov, had signed a constitution, proclaiming the Dniestr region to be a sovereign and independent state.

Yesterday's OSCE statement made no mention of this move. It said: "The Chairman expresses his appreciation for the joint declaration by the Presidents of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, signed in Moscow January 19. This statement is an important step forward in promoting the peaceful negotiated settlement of the conflict through defining the special status of trans-Dniestr, within the internationally-recognised boundaries of a sovereign and independent Moldova. The Chairman welcomes the determination of the leadership of Moldova and of the local authorities of its trans-Dniestr region to reach a durable and definitive solution to the issues which divide them. He regrets that the meeting between the President of the Republic of Moldova and the leader of the trans-Dniestr authorities planned for last month (jan 31) could not be held, and urges them to resume their meeting in the nearest future, and continue to meet regularly until the successful conclusion of the negotiations."