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McCain Backs Demand For Russian Troop Withdrawal From Transdniester

U.S. Senator John McCain (left) and Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat meet in Chisinau.
U.S. Senator John McCain (left) and Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat meet in Chisinau.
CHISINAU -- U.S. Senator John McCain said during a visit to Chisinau that Washington supports calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

McCain told RFE/RL in Chisinau at a press conference with Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat on June 12 that the presence of "Russian troops on Moldovan sovereign territory and the Russian illegal occupation of parts of Georgia" is not simply a matter of concern for those countries.

He said Moscow is violating the territorial integrity of Moldova and Georgia and one of the "fundamental norms" of "international behavior."

Russia maintains some 1,000 troops in Transdniester in addition to a joint peacekeeping mission and has large stocks of ammunition and other military equipment despite its international commitments to withdraw the forces and materiel.

McCain also expressed the hope that "there will be progress" in an upcoming meeting in Moscow aimed at resolving the dispute over Transdniester.

The formal negotiations for a resolution on the breakaway region -- which declared independence from Moldova in 1990 -- are expected to restart on June 21 in Moscow after a five-year break.

The United States and European Union participate as observers in a 5+2 negotiations format together with Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as mediators.

McCain made the one-day trip to Moldova three months after visit in March by Vice President Joe Biden. McCain reiterated Biden's pledge to only support a resolution in Transdniester that preserves Moldova's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

McCain and Filat were awarded the Liberty Award by the U.S. Atlantic Council on June 10 in Wroclaw, Poland.

McCain's visit to Moldova came one week ahead of a runoff in local elections for mayor of Chisinau and was harshly criticized by the communist opposition as "interference in Moldova's internal affairs."

McCain expressed "disappointment" that the leader of the Communist Party, former President Vladimir Voronin, rejected an invitation to meet with him.

McCain said he was open "to hear and respect" Voronin's vision of the future of Moldova even though he may not agree with him.