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Talks resume – advancing towards a settlement on Transnistria?

Transinstria

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The latest round of 5+2 negotiations for the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict took place in Vienna, on 12 and 13 July 2012. Abandoned in 2006, official 5+2 talks resumed in November 2011, involving Moldova, Transnistria, Russia, Ukraine and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) as observers.

Background

In 1990, the area on the east bank of the River Nistru (Transnistria) seceded from Moldova. Armed conflict ensued, with the former Soviet 14th Army intervening. The 1992 peace agreement recognised a special status for Transnistria within Moldova, to be defined later. Russian forces remain on the ground, rebranded as peacekeeping forces.

So far, the parties have failed to agree on a final legal status for Transnistria. However, the context for a settlement now seems more favourable, as both Moldova and Transnistria have changed leadership, official 5+2 negotiations have resumed and external actors are committed to facilitating a solution. Also, a pragmatic, gradual approach of solving concrete problems confronting the two societies has replaced the focus on the status. Joint working groups discuss a range of practical issues (economic and social, transport and telecommunications, health, education etc.), building trust between the parties.

Recent 5+2 talks

In April 2012, the previous round of 5+2 talks led to agreement on the principles and the agenda for negotiations. Equality between the parties in the negotiations and “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” are examples of these principles. The agenda sets out socio-economic and other confidence-building measures; legal and humanitarian issues; and ultimately, institutional, political and security aspects related to a comprehensive settlement. The July 5+2 talks consolidated these achievements.

Additionally, in its recent resolution on Moldova, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly called for constructive dialogue with the ultimate aim of agreeing on “a special legal status for the Transnistrian region in the composition of the Republic of Moldova”. It also appealed to Russia to withdraw its forces from Moldova and proposed replacing the current peacekeeping mechanism with an OSCE-led multinational civilian mission.

EU involvement

The EU participates as an observer in the 5+2 talks and supports confidence-building measures between the parties. Negotiations on an EU-Moldova Association Agreement started in 2010, including on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) in 2012. Moldova hopes that its progress toward EU integration would make it more attractive to Transnistrians, whose representatives are also invited to the DCFTA negotiations. Since 2005, the EU has deployed a border assistance mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM), advising the authorities of the two states on best practices for enhancing their border-management capacities.

Main Sources

Moldova Country Briefing / Julien Crampes, Elina Stergatou, Ekaterina Chirkova, Policy Department, DG External Policies, DG EXPO/B/PolDep/Note/2012_142, May 2012

Country Profile (Transnistria), in Europa World online, London, Routledge,  retrieved 20 July 2012

Transdniestr, in Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – Russia and the CIS, IHS Jane’s, April 2012

Further reading

Transnistrien und die künftige Sicherheitsarchitektur in Europa / Manfred Grund, Hans Martin Sieg, Kristin Wesemann, KAS Auslandsinformationen, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V., Sankt Augustin, September 2011

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