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Russian peacekeepers in Transnistria must be replaced with civilian mission - official

June 07, 2017, 7:13 UTC+3 CHISINAU

The authorities of Transnistria oppose the initiative to withdraw Russian peacekeepers, who they see as the only guarantor of stability

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CHISINAU, June 7. /TASS/. The Moldovan government views the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces from the buffer zone, separating the self-proclaimed republic of Transnistria from the rest of Moldova, as the first step toward solving the decades-long conflict, Moldova’s deputy prime minister has said.

"During the 25 years of this conflict, no clear idea of how it should be solved has ever been shaped. That’s why right now we need to step up efforts by the government and the civil society to create a stage-by-stage strategy of how the relations between the two banks of Dniester should unfold. As one of the first steps, the military peacekeeping contingent should be replaced with a civil one, and (Soviet-era) ammunition stored in depots on the left bank must be safely disposed of," Gheorghe Balan, Moldova’s deputy prime minister for reintegration, said at a conference at Moldova's IDIS Viitorul think tank.

"Transnistria may have a special administrative status within Moldova, but in a manner that would rule out any political bickering between Chisinau and Tiraspol," the deputy prime minister said.

He added that the most pressing problems that Moldova currently faces, including corruption, unemployment and smuggling are "in this or that way related to the unsolved status of the Transnistrian conflict."

However, the authorities of the self-proclaimed republic fiercely oppose the initiative to withdraw Russian peacekeepers, who they see as the only guarantor of stability in the region. This year marks the 25th anniversary of one of the world’s most successful peacekepping operations ever. Throughout the entire period of Russian peacekeeping, with no major outbreaks of violence ever recorded.

Transnistria, a largely Russian-speaking region, broke away from Moldova following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Its relations with Moldova’s central government in Chisinau have been highly mixed and extremely tense at times ever since then. In 1992 and 1993, tensions erupted into a deadly armed conflict that claimed the lives of hundreds of people on both sides.

The peace agreement signed in Moscow in July 1992 put an end to the civil war and Russian peacekeepers were brought into the area of the conflict. Since then, they have been protecting peace in the region, together with their Moldovan and Transnistrian counterparts, thus allowing Chisinau and Tiraspol to continue negotiations in the 5+2 format (Moldova, Transnistria, the OSCE, Russia, Ukraine and observers from the US and EU),

The peacekeepers currently serve in the Safety Zone between Moldova and Transnistria together with the countries’ "blue helmets."

Transnistria also hosts the Russian Army Response Force that helps to conduct peacekeeping operations and guards ammunition warehouses near the village of Colbasna that were left after the Soviet Union’s breakup. Ammunition recycling and removal was blocked by Tiraspol in 2004 after relations between the two sides of the Dniester River became strained.

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