Moldovan Prime Minister Pavel Filip has urged the Foreign Ministry to accelerate the opening of a NATO liaison office in Chisinau after President Igor Dodon had earlier called on alliance officials not to rush in establishing the office.
Filip said at a government meeting on February 8 that "we have signed an agreement on opening this bureau" and urged the ministry to "avoid the dragging on of the process and any red tape."
In Brussels one day previously, Dodon said he had a "request not to hurry the opening of the NATO office" and that Moldovans do not "welcome" it being established.
Dodon added after talks with NATO Deputy Secretary-General Rose Gottemoeller that the NATO liaison bureau would "create impediments in regard to negotiations on the Transdniester issue."
"We respect all countries' sovereignty and their right of not being allies to anyone," said Gottemoeller. "So we respect Moldova’s neutrality...[but] neutrality does not mean isolation; NATO collaborates with other neutral countries, such as Switzerland or Austria."
Gottermoeller described her talks with Dodon as "intensive positive discussions," but insisted that NATO will proceed with plans to open its liaison office in Chisinau later this year and added it will be staffed only by civilians, not by military personnel.
"This is not a military base, but a small diplomatic mission staffed only by civilians," Gottemoeller said. "There will be no NATO troops in Moldova."
The Moldovan government is made up of officials from pro-Western parties while the Dodon is the head of the pro-Russian Socialist Party, which does not favor integration with European institutions but rather closer ties to Moscow.
The Moldovan presidency is largely a symbolic position.
The Moldovan government signed an agreement with NATO on the opening of the civilian-staffed liaison bureau in November, before Dodon assumed office.
Moldovan Deputy Foreign Minister Lilian Darii told Filip at the government meeting that the Foreign Ministry hopes to open the NATO office in April.
With reporting by Interfax and actmedia.ru