Turkish President Suleyman Demirel yesterday paid an official visit to Moldova, which culminated in a tour of the country’s Gagauz-inhabited region. Accompanied by Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi, Demirel inaugurated a water supply system designed and financed by Turkey in that area. Turkey takes an active interest in the situation of the Gagauz, Turkic-speaking Christians residing compactly in southern Moldova.
Demirel praised as “exemplary” Moldova’s approach to the Gagauz problem, which had until 1994 threatened to blow up into an armed conflict. This visit was Demirel’s third to the Gagauz region (Flux, Basapress, Infotag, June 17).
Chisinau’s approach amounts–in fact if not in name–to ethnic-territorial autonomy, the first and thus far the sole solution of this type in a post-Soviet country. The Gagauz region has possessed since 1994 institutions of self-government, including a legislative assembly, an elected regional leader (Bashkhan) and an executive committee. The devolution of powers from the central to the regional government is anchored in the Moldovan constitution. Turkey helped mediate this solution and it trains Gagauz students on scholarships in Turkish universities.
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