Day-long talks held yesterday in Tiraspol by Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov revealed a deepening impasse in the negotiations to settle the conflict. Instead of focusing on that task, the discussions were diverted into dealing mainly with recent economic and political measures imposed by Transdniester authorities against the rest of Moldova.
In the last two weeks, Transdniester has:
–introduced excise duties on Ukrainian and other CIS countries’ commercial cargoes bound for Moldova via Transdniester;
–cut by 25 percent, and threatened to cut further, the electricity deliveries to the right bank from the Moldovan Hydropower Plant, which supplies most of Moldova’s electrical power and is situated on the left bank on the Dniester;
–decreed an obligation on "outside visitors" (in practice those from right-bank Moldova) to register themselves with local police within three hours of arrival, list their local contacts and pay a prohibitive $10 charge;
–forbade the entry of cars with Moldovan license plates, hoping to force Chisinau to recognize Transdniester’s own license plates, which suggest that Transdniester is a separate country;
–successfully lobbied Russia’s Duma against ratification of the Russian-Moldovan interstate treaty because it recognizes Moldova’s territorial integrity; and
–conclusively refused to allow Moldova’s parliamentary elections to be held in Transdniester, while at the same time broadcasting electoral propaganda in favor of Moldova’s red-brown "Socialist Unity Bloc."
In addition, Tiraspol continues to default on its 1997 commitment to allow the reconstruction of bridges across the Dniester, damaged in the 1992 fighting.
Chisinau’s feeble response of lifting customs exemptions, which were until now enjoyed de facto by Transdniester cargoes transiting Moldova, is being described as an unacceptable provocation by Tiraspol.
On the political issues, which are supposed to be the main topic of these talks, Smirnov reaffirmed the familiar demand for recognition of Transdniester as a subject of international law on a par with Moldova, in a "confederation" of two coequal states. This constitutes Tiraspol’s interpretation of the Russian-conceived Memorandum of 8 May 1997 on the principles of settling the Transdniester. Lucinschi, for his part, reaffirmed Chisinau’s adherence to the letter of the Memorandum and the accompanying statement, signed by Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE Chairmanship as mediators, which interprets the Memorandum as sanctifying Moldova’s territorial integrity. (Basapress, Flux, Russian agencies, February 17-18)
However, the Russian side condones Tiraspol’s interpretation, which has blocked the negotiations. Yesterday’s talks were long overdue owing to Tiraspol’s repeated postponements of scheduled rounds of talks. Some will describe the mere holding of another round of talks as progress. The Moldovan government, which faces elections next month, will also probably choose play down the situation.
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