CHISINAU -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told Moldova that its European aspirations must be fulfilled gradually and called for renewed international efforts to resolve the frozen Transdniester conflict.
Merkel was speaking at a joint news conference in Chisinau with Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat.
She said that EU integration should come "step-by-step" and would begin with an association agreement currently being negotiatied by the two sides.
Filat said in turn that concluding the negotiation agreement remains Moldova's top priority in its EU integration drive.
The agreement is expected to be finalized later this year and would include a free-trade agreement and, eventually, a liberalization of the visa regime for Moldovans who want to travel and work in the European Union.
Filat also called for more German investment in Moldova's economy.
"We have also discussed the economic dimension [of our cooperation], mentioning that German companies present in Moldova are bringing added value to the Moldovan economy and are an example to be followed," he said. "And we've also touched upon the fact that we need as much German investment as possible in our country."
Moldova's prime minister also thanked Merkel for Germany's support in efforts to resolve Moldova's dispute with Transdniester.
"An important theme of our discussion was the resolving of the Transdniester conflict," Filat said. "I have thanked Mrs. Chancellor Merkel and Germany for her personal involvement and Germany's involvement in solving the conflict."
Pro-Russian Transdniester declared independence from Moldova in 1990 amid fears of reunification with neighboring Romania.
Moldova and Transdniester fought a short war in 1992 that was curbed by the intervention of Russian troops stationed in Transdniester. Some 1,000 people were killed in the conflict.
Successive efforts to resolve the dispute under the mediation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been unsuccessful.
Russia still maintains some 1,000 troops in Transdniester despite repeated pledges it would withdraw them.
Merkel said that she and Filat have agreed that the current 5+2 negotiations format is the right framework for resolving the dispute.
The 5+2 format involves Moldova and Transdniester, as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Russia, Ukraine, the European Union, and the United States.
"In these discussions here [today] and especially for the future, the European Union must lead and participate in [the talks on a resolution of Transdniester]," Merkel said. "[The EU] will also contribute a lot. And Germany has [taken part] from the beginning. That's why we have the Meseberg Memorandum. And I believe that we must move gradually, step by step. We must show patience with this process."
The next round of negotiations could take place in September.
Merkel's short visit to Moldova continued with talks with President Nicolae Timofti, meetings with parliamentary factions leaders, and an address to Moldova's political elite in the Palace of the Republic in Chisinau.
Written by Eugen Tomiuc, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Moldovan Service