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Western Support Needed to Facilitate Transdniester Negotiations

(Washington, DC-- January 17, 2006) Three senior Moldovan policy analysts recommended that the United States and the European Union (EU) become active participants in the stalled negotiations on the Transdniester conflict. The analysts -- Stela Jantuan, Stefan Gligor and Alexandru Flenchea -- were visiting Washington, DC as part of a larger group organized by the Delphi International Program of World Learning under the auspices of the Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program. They told a RFE/RL audience last week that the negotiations should be broadened beyond the current five-party talks that include officials from Moldova, the unrecognized Transdniester Republic, Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Stela Jantuan, Information Chief for the Analysis and Prognosis Service of the Moldovan Parliament said that Moldovan authorities have made every effort to "put [the Transdniester conflict] behind them," but that the representatives of the separatist region have a "non-constructive position" and appear to be "bargaining for bargaining's sake." She said that, although there has been "no dialogue for some time" at a bi-lateral level, a way as found to resolve the "school crisis" that broke out in the Summer of 2004, when authorities in the Transdniester region closed down all of Moldovan- or Romanian-speaking schools. The Moldovan parliament recently adopted legislaiton codifying the country's "strategic priorities," Jantuan said, which call for Moldova to seek EU membership as well as a resolution to the Transdienster conflict. Therefore, Jantuan said, Moldova is appealing to the United States and the European Union, because "there is a need for the democratization of Transdniester" and "support for the Ukraine Plan to end the conflict." She said that negotiations were scheduled to resume on January 26-27, 2006.

Stefan Gligor, Senior Consultant for the Information and Analysis Department of the Moldovan Parliament said that, from the beginning, the conflict in Transdniester was "political, not ethnic." He described the Transdniester region as a "closed and brain-washed" society where individual freedom is highly restricted. Although the conflict is frozen and problems persist, Gligor said positive developments have occurred, such as the agreement of the EU to provide assistance in patrolling and securing the Moldova-Ukraine border with a mobile 60-person team of border and customs experts. The agreement allows for joint security checkpoints to be set up on the Ukrainian side of the borde,r where the Moldovan government has no access to Transdniestrian territory (about 500 km), and enhanced checkpoints along those 700 kilometers of the Moldova-Ukraine border that the Moldovan government does control. Gligor noted that Russian 14th Army troops and their equipment mostly travel by air transport into the Transdniester region, but that Moldovan authorities have not been allowed access to the airfield to inspect or monitor those transports since 1999.

Alexandru Flenchea, Head of the Information and Analysis Department in Moldova's Ministry of Reintegration appealed for the U.S. and EU to join the negotiations, to help keep a "balance in the Black Sea Region" by having "Washington, Brussels, as well as Moscow involved in the talks." He said that it has proven difficult to achieve any solution to the conflict, especially since some of the parties involved "negotiate just to negotiate." Flenchea said that another aspect to the conflict is the lack of communication channels between Moldova and Transdniester. For example, he said that the Transdniester government insists upon having a separate telephone system from Moldova, and blocks access to the region by Moldovan telephone lines, as well as mobile phone, radio and TV signals.

Archived audio of this briefing can be heard in RealAudio and Windows Media formats.