Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 222

As a lower-level substitute for the planned summit aborted by Moscow (see the Monitor, November 19, 25), deputy foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine and Moldova and the head of the OSCE’s mission in Moldova conferred on November 30 in Kyiv. Transdniester was invited but declined to attend. The officials considered a possible rescheduling of the summit and two Ukrainian-drafted agreements which lay down new principles for settling the Transdniester conflict,

The first document stipulates a “comprehensive and phased” political settlement, reserving tile definition of Transdniester’s political status for the last phase of the negotiations. “Deferring” the issue of Transdniester’s status, the sides would initially focus on security and confidence-building measures and oil restoring economic ties. That phase would be followed by negotiations between Chisinau and Tiraspol to codify Transdniester’s political status as a hilly autonomous part of Moldova. The other document deals with international guarantees of the observance of the political settlement. The guarantees would apparently include both political and military elements (Flux, Infotag, November 30, December 1).

The concept of “deferred status” has a precedent in both the 1996 Russian-Chechen agreement and the 1998 international agreement on Kosovo. It represents, in effect, a negotiating strategy premised on a hope that the path from conflict to settlement leads through an intermediate stage of functional cooperation among the parties. This strategy should stand greater chances of success in Moldova for four reasons. First, the military conflict here was far less destructive. Second, a ceasefire has been in effect for the last six years. Third, no mass displacement of population took place. And, fourth, no ethnic or religious passions are involved.

Yet despite these favorable premises for a resolution, Moscow and Tiraspol have thus far successfully frozen the conflict in order to provide a basing area and a rationale for the Russian military presence. Ukraine is demonstrating the political will to change that situation. The OSCE thus far has mostly played second fiddle to Russian diplomacy, except for eloquent annual resolutions without practical consequences. A special and even more emphatic resolution is expected to be issued at the OSCE’s upcoming year-end meeting. Unless the OSCE plays its cards more effectively, the “deferred status” may turn into another recipe for prolonging the stalemate.–VS