ODESSA, May 23 (Itar-Tass) - Another attempt to achieve progress in the Trans-Dniester conflict settlement will be made in Odessa on Thursday. Acting spokesperson for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Yevgeny Perebeinos said that “taking part in the Permanent Conference on political issue within the framework of negotiations on the Trans-Dniester settlement process in the ‘5 +2’ format will be representatives of Moldova and the Trans-Dniester Republic as the conflict sides, the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine - as mediators, and the European Union and the United States - as observers.
The agenda of the “5 +2” talks includes three sets of issues: the socio-economic problems, humanitarian affairs and human rights, as well as the issue of comprehensive settlement, including the institutional, political and security issues. According to the representative of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, during the meeting “the parties intend to focus on the discussion of socio-economic and humanitarian issues.” In particular, they will continue the work to coordinate the document on freedom of movement, providing for the opening of vehicular traffic on the bridge over the Dniester River. The sides will discuss the implementation of socio-economic projects in the region with the participation of the OSCE, as well as cooperation in the field of education. “Yes, the main attention will be given to the first two ‘baskets,’ although the agenda contains all three ‘baskets,’” the representative of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry told Itar-Tass. “The prospect for the transfer to the discussion of the latter will depend on the progress in the discussion of the first two baskets.”
The current round will be the eighth since the beginning of the discussion of the Trans-Dniester problem in the “5 +2” format. The previous meeting was held in Lvov in February, immediately after Ukraine assumed chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Then Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara announced the intention to make progress in the settlement of “frozen” conflicts in the OSCE space, in particular - the Trans-Dniester conflict. The Lvov meeting participants confirmed the proposals of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Leonid Kozhara to organise a meeting between the Moldovan and Trans-Dniester leaders this year. It was not held in February, however, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman stated on the eve of a meeting in Odessa, responding to a question Itar-Tass, “We will continue our efforts to organise a meeting of the Moldova and Trans-Dniester leaders with taking into account the political developments in the Republic of Moldova.” Ukraine, he stressed, “is always ready to provide a platform for such a meeting.”
According to the Moldovan experts, Itar-Tass correspondent in Chisinau Valery Demidetsky reports, no breakthrough political decisions should be expected from the upcoming meeting. And not just because of the uncertainty in Moldova, which has found itself on the verge of new early elections after the disintegration of the pro-European coalition, the resignation of the government and the parliament leadership. But also because of the opposite geopolitical objectives, which in recent years have been clearly visible in the official statements of Chisinau and Tiraspol.
A year ago, there as a burst of activity at the negotiations associated with the election of a new Trans-Dniester President Yevgeny Shevchuk. He took a number of pragmatic steps towards Chisinau - the Trans-Dniester region was opened for Moldovan goods, two Moldovan channels began their broadcasting there, the rail service was unblocked, the security zone controlled by the joint peacekeeping force of Russia, Moldova and Trans-Dniester has become more open. But these and other steps of Tiraspol have not resulted in cardinal positive changes both in terms of confidence building between the two banks of the Dniester Rive and the overall prospects for the negotiations.
One of the main reasons for the negotiating process’ fading, according to political analysts, was the erroneous strategy of Chisinau that instead of the tactics “of small steps and confidence-building measures,” proposed by Shevchuk, started to make plans for the EU integration together with the Trans-Dniester region. However, Brussels, that had earlier stressed that EU integration is possible only with the settlement of the Trans-Dniester problem, does not consider seriously these proposals. In addition, the Moldova Association Agreement with the EU, which was planned to be signed in autumn at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, includes free trade agreements, which cannot be implemented in the Trans-Dniester region in the foreseeable future.
“We want Chisinau to quickly overcome the political crisis, decide on the leadership and proceed to the settlement of socio-economic issues that will make life easier for the people on the two banks of the Dniester River. In Odessa, we will propose to discuss the freedom of movement of citizens, cargoes and other issues without the settlement of which it is impossible to proceed to the discussion of problems related to security and the political status, as it is proposed by our partners in the negotiations,” Shevchuk told Itar-Tass.