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Moldova "Too Long Held Hostage" To Transdniester Dispute

(Washington, DC--June 26, 2001) Moldova has been "held hostage for too long" to the ongoing dispute with the breakaway Transdniester region, the Foreign Minister of Moldova told an RFE/RL audience last week. He said that Russia must live up to its commitment to withdraw troops and munitions from the area.

Nicolae Chernomaz, the most senior Moldovan official to visit Washington since the Moldovan Communist Party won national elections in February 2001, met with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and told him that Moldova would continue "economic reforms, democratization, and respect its international commitments." Chernomaz added that the Russian government must also live up to its commitment to withdraw all troops from Transdniestria by the end of 2002, made at the Istanbul summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 1999.

Chernomaz said that Secretary Powell had pledged to personally address problems in Transdniestria, which poses both an ecological threat for Europe and is a conduit for drug and human trafficking. The secretary will urge the European Union to join with the U.S. in resolving this long smoldering issue.

Another major issue facing Moldova, the foreign minister said, is the country's foreign debt, which has ballooned over the last decade to unmanageable proportions. Chernomaz said that if the debt is not restructured, Moldova will probably default next year because the scheduled payments would amount to 70 percent of Moldova's projected budget in 2002.