Presidents Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine and Petru Lucinschi of Moldova, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin along with a high-powered Russian delegation, and Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov conferred on March 20 in Odessa on ways to break the deadlock in the negotiations to settle the Transdniester conflict. The meeting had been agreed upon by Kuchma and Russian President Boris Yeltsin last month at their Moscow summit.
The Odessa meeting decided to introduce Ukrainian military observers in the security zone that separates Chisinau’s and Tiraspol’s forces. Moscow opposed the introduction of Ukrainian peacekeeping troops, which Tiraspol had favored. Any Ukrainian presence should be a plus for Chisinau because it could, to some extent, counterbalance Russian influence. The sides also decided to reopen one and prepare to reopen a second of the five bridges damaged by Russian artillery and/or closed by Transdniester forces since the 1992 war.
On the minus side, the OSCE — for unexplained reasons — was absent from the meeting, despite being an official mediator with Russia and Ukraine in the negotiations. Several important political, military and economic documents were signed. Reports about their content are vague and omit crucial points. A full assessment of the meeting, however, will have to await more information on these documents. (Russian agencies, Flux, Basapress, March 20 and 21)
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