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The Transdniestria conflict: Concentrated efforts to restart negotiations Moldova

13.04.2016 - Article

At the invitation of the OSCE, currently chaired by Germany, mediators and observers travelled to Chisinau and Tiraspol for talks to bring the two parties back to the negotiating table.

At the invitation of Cord Meier-Klodt, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, a joint trip took place on 5 and 6 April to help restart the negotiating process. It saw mediators Russia and Ukraine, as well as the United States and the EU as observers, travel to Chisinau for talks with government representatives and to Tiraspol for talks with the leaders of Transdniestria. This was the first joint trip of this kind since 2012. It is part of an ongoing effort to persuade the conflict parties to take small confidence-building steps and return to the negotiating table. The official negotiating process has been on hold for nearly two years.

The flags of the mediators – the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine – and the observers – the EU and the United States
The flags of the mediators – the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine – and the observers – the EU and the United States© OSCE/Igor Schimbator

In Chisinau, the mediators – the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine – and the observers – the EU and the United States – held talks with Prime Minister Pavel Filip, Foreign Minister Andrei Galbur, Parliamentary Speaker Andrian Candu and the chief negotiator, Gheorghe Balan. In Tiraspol, there were talks with Yevgeny Shevchuk, the political head of Transdniestria, chief negotiator Vitaly Ignatiev and the Speaker of the Supreme Soviet, Vadim Krasnoselski.

Mediators and observers send clear messages to conflict parties

An important feature of the visit was the unified stance of the 3+2. Prior to the talks, all the mediators and observers had agreed on clear joint messages to send to the conflict parties. Special Representative Meier-Klodt conveyed these messages on behalf of the 3+2 during the talks in Chisinau and Tiraspol. The joint declaration called on Chisinau and Tiraspol to develop a shared vision for the status of Transdniestria within the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova. It stated that this would require swift implementation of concrete practical measures to enable a positive injection of movement into the interrupted negotiating process. The most important thing for that implementation is that there be regular and constructive dialogue both between the chief negotiators and in the thematic working groups.

The objective: A 5+2 meeting in the near future

It will become clear in the coming weeks whether the two parties’ constructive engagement can generate the critical momentum for a substantive 5+2 meeting within the next two months. No meeting has been held in that format since June 2014. Only when the sides agree on solutions to practical matters can confidence be rebuilt and a positive dynamic be generated that will make it possible to resume the 5+2 negotiating process. Meier-Klodt commented as follows:

We are working hard to see the endeavour of conflict resolution in the official 5+2 format resumed in the near future. The meeting must, however, be substantive and well prepared by the conflict parties. And it should not stop at one meeting; it should represent the resumption of a long-term political negotiating process.
In conversation (left to right): The representatives of the EU (T. Mayr-Harting), Russia (S. Gubarev), the OSCE (C. Meier-Klodt, M. Scanlan), Ukraine (V. Shovtenko) and the United States (B. Brinks)
In conversation (left to right): The representatives of the EU (T. Mayr-Harting), Russia (S. Gubarev), the OSCE (C. Meier-Klodt, M. Scanlan), Ukraine (V. Shovtenko) and the United States (B. Brinks)© OSCE

Background

Transdniestria (an area to the east of the Nistru/Dniester river, where Moldovans, Russians and Ukrainians each make up around a third of the population) de facto broke away from Moldova proper in connection with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. No state has recognised its unilateral declaration of independence.

There have been negotiations aimed at resolving the Transdniestria conflict since 1993. The process brings together representatives from Moldova and Transdniestria as well as the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine in the role of mediators and the EU and the US with observer status (the “5+2 format”). The chief negotiators also meet in a 1+1 format, as do specialists from the two sides to develop technical solutions to practical problems.

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