Prague, 15 July 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The dispute over Moldova's separatist region of Transdniester is the focus of a summit due to take place tomorrow in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
The presidents of Ukraine and Moldova -- Leonid Kuchma and Petru Lucinschi -- as well as Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and the self-proclaimed president of Transdniester, Igor Smirnov, are expected to discuss ways to settle the dispute over the region's status.
Michael Shafir -- an RFE/RL analyst of southeast European affairs -- says the discussion is likely to center on prospects for a "common state" between Moldova and the region, an ethnic Slav enclave on the eastern bank of the Dniester river.
The Slav minority -- made up mostly of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians -- moved to separate from Moldova shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Romanian-speaking nationalists urged unity with neighboring Romania. Moldova had been part of Romanian territory before World War II.
The enclave emerged as a self-styled separate state after a civil war seven years ago. It has failed to win recognition from any other state, however, and Russian peacekeepers still patrol its territory.
The concept of a common state between Moldova and Transdniester first appeared in a 1997 memorandum on bilateral normalization of relations. The two sides signed the memorandum at a meeting in Moscow.
It quickly became clear, however, that each side interpreted the memorandum differently. Moldova has insisted that it alone provides the backbone for a common state, with Transdniester merely holding a special autonomous status within it.
The region's leaders, however, maintain that a common state can only be created by two equal subjects under international law: the Dniester Republic and Moldova.
The result has been a stalemate in relations. Tomorrow's Kyiv meeting will attempt to resolve these issues, though prospects for a successful conclusion of the dispute remain uncertain.
Even so, analyst Shafir points to signs of potential movement on the issue:
"There have been indications in the last month or so that the positions of both sides have been slowly but surely approaching on many, many points, which involved economic, social and other forms of cooperation.
Last Saturday (July 9), a deputy foreign minister from Moldova met with representatives of the Transdniester region in Kyiv in the presence of the deputy foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine. Officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe acted as mediators. The meeting was intended to prepare drafts of various cooperation agreements.
On Tuesday of this week (July 12), Moldova's President Lucinschi and Transdniester leader Smirnov met in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, and signed a number of agreements on cooperation in the areas of communication, energy and transport.
They reportedly failed, however, to make progress on the issue of a common state