Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 50

On an official visit to Chisinau yesterday, Leonid Kuchma signed with Petru Lucinschi a Declaration on the Principles of a Ukrainian-Moldovan Customs Union. The presidents agreed on introducing a free trade regime pending the completion of a customs union treaty, due for signing later this year. The presidents told a joint news conference that the Ukrainian-Moldovan customs union will "fundamentally differ from the Russia-Belarus one" in that it will not be a political instrument and will be based on "equality among the two countries."

Kuchma agreed with Lucinschi’s view that "Ukraine can and must play a larger role" in facilitating a settlement of the Transdniester conflict and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova. Ukraine is "vitally interested in an early resolution of these issues, important to both countries" because "no one wants such a situation on his territory," Kuchma said. He also alluded to the potential for an analogous situation to develop in Crimea, and said that Kiev will consider sending military observers to the security zone in Transdniester and helping mediate a political settlement that conforms to OSCE principles on Moldova’s territorial integrity. He took the position that Russia, not Moldova, must pay the costs of moving the materiel of Russian troops from Moldova to Russia via Ukraine. Kiev has "no intention of profiting financially" from the transit of the more than 500,000 tons of equipment and ammunition, Kuchma said. He expressed appreciation for Moldova’s support of Ukraine’s goal to sign a special partnership agreement with NATO "on a par with any agreement that Russia might sign." (Flux, Interfax-Ukraine, March 11)

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