MOSCOW, March 4. /TASS/. Reviving the practice of visits to the Trans-Dniester region by mediators and observers in the settlement process will promote the early resumption of the negotiating process, Russian Foreign Ministry’s Ambassador at Large, Russia’s political representative at the Trans-Dniester negotiations Sergey Gubarev told TASS on Friday.
"I am glad that the OSCE Special Representative for the Trans-Dniester settlement, German diplomat Cord Meier-Klodt has met with understanding my reminder of the previously existing practice of such visits for the collective objective assessment of the state of affairs in the region," he said. "For some reason, this practice has been stopped, which is fundamentally wrong. We have considered this issue with the parties and agreed to resume the trips, possibly as early as this spring."
According to Gubarev, direct contacts between the mediators and observers with representatives of the leadership in Chisinau and Tiraspol are necessary for early resumption and breaking the impasse of the negotiating process in the "5 + 2" format. "The meetings in this format have not been called for more than 1.5 years," he said. "The time has come to end this prolonged and totally unacceptable pause and resume the normal rhythmic negotiating work. It seems that representatives on both banks of the Dniester River are beginning to realize that time is working against all and that sitting and waiting is not the best way to solve the problem."
"We know the original reason for the suspension of formal negotiations," the diplomat said. "It was the opening by the Moldovan authorities of a number of criminal cases, especially against officials of the Trans-Dniester republic. If Chisinau finds a way out of this situation, the parties will be able to return to the negotiating table. However, in this case not only the Moldovan side should make concessions, because Tiraspol has also introduced a strict order for the Moldavian officials’ admission to Trans-Dniester’s territory. Thus, reciprocal steps are needed."
Referring to the possible timeframe of the resumption of negotiations in the "5 + 2" format, the Russian representative suggested not to run ahead, but focus on systematic work together with other participants in the negotiations and the of the German OSCE presidency’s special representative on the Trans-Dniester region. "We are moving in the same direction with him," Gubarev said. "By the way, I want to support the idea that emerged in 2010 to ··hold the OSCE Review Conference on confidence-building measures in the Trans-Dniester conflict. It is also called the Bavarian Conference because it is held in Bavaria’s small towns. I hope that also this year the German chairmanship will not deviate from this practice and will organize such a conference, which will contribute to the understanding of, and ideally to strengthening the confidence-building measures between the two banks of the Dniester."
Russia’s political envoy has also warned against attempts to reformat the peacekeeping operation in the region, saying they were extremely dangerous and irresponsible.
referred to repeated appeals in Chisinau and in the West to replace Russian peacekeepers with a certain contingent with a UN mandate or to send a certain police mission to the region. The latest appeal came from Moldovan Defense Minister Anatol Salaru.
"As this issue is raised, we keep answering with the same regularity that the mandate of the peacekeeping operation in Transdniestria will be exhausted only there when the sides arrive at political agreements. So far, this is not the case," the Russian diplomat said.
Gubarev said those speculating about reformatting of the peacekeeping operation were enthralled by wrong impression as to why armed clashes were avoided in the conflict zone for many years and the situation remained stable.
"Everybody has got used to it, as for example one gets used to sunrises, and has stopped noticing what difficult job is done daily by the agencies set up specially to manage the peacekeeping operation - the Joint Control Commission, the Joint Military Command," Gubarev said.
"As a result, temptation comes to give up on these mechanisms," he went on.
"I am absolutely confident that dismantlement of the security zone, transformation of the peacekeeping operation into some obscure police mission will bring the sides to direct confrontation," the Russian envoy said.
People who want to set up such an experiment should realize the consequences, he said, noting that many of them did not even live in the region.
On Monday, Transdiestria’s President Yevgeny Shevchuk said at a meeting with Pirkka Tapiola, who leads a European Union delegation to Moldova, that Tiraspol is open for further 5+2 format talks on the settlement of the conflict with Moldova. "Regrettably, the talks have practically stalled and hence a range of problems that are on the agenda cannot be solved. Delays in the solution of some of them only complicate economic relations," he said.
Talks in the "5+2 format," involving Moldova and the Trans-Dniester republic as parties to the conflict, the OSCE as a mediator, Russia and Ukraine as guarantors and the European Union and the United States as observers, have been stuck for the second year. Only two out of five scheduled meetings were held in 2014. Relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol chilled after the Trans-Dniester leader accused Moldova and Ukraine of exerting coordinated pressure on the unrecognized republic through economic sanctions.
In February, OSCE’s new negotiator, Cord Meier-Klodt, met with representatives of the parties. He expressed the hope talks in the extended format could be resumed before the summer vacations. He noted however that an agenda of ready decisions should be agreed before such talks. Tiraspol says top priority tasks are to solve problems complicating economic activities and everyday life.
The Transdniestrian conflict started in March 1992 when the first clashes occurred between Moldovan police and Transdniestrian militia near the city of Dubossary, which were followed by an outbreak of armed hostilities. By summer, it had developed into large-scale fighting in Bendery, where about a thousand people were killed and tens of thousands were wounded and became refugees.
The fratricidal war was stopped after a peace agreement was signed in Moscow in July of the same year and Russian peacekeepers were brought into the conflict area.
Since then, they have been guarding peace and calm in the region, together with their Moldovan and Transdniestria colleagues, thus allowing Chisinau and Tiraspol to conduct negotiations on the settlement of the conflict around the breakaway republic.