ISSUE 3-2004
Александр Куранов Tomas Urbanec Александр Куранов
Василий Симаков
Сергей Маркедонов
Oleksandr Sushko
Павел Витек

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles and/or discussions are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or positions of the publisher.

By Tomas Urbanec | Urbanec a Pavel, Consulting Company, the Czech Republic | Issue 3, 2004

     Claus Neukirch, Press and Public Affairs Officer of the OSCE Mission to Moldova, was interviewed by journal Russkii vopros on the situation in the Republic of Moldova and Trans-Dniester region.

     What is the current relationship between the government of Moldova and Transdniestrian region, do you see any possibilities of an armed conflict between these two subjects?

    &nbspIn 2003 both sides had made remarkable progress in working on a final settlement of the Transdniestrian problem but unfortunately the negotiation process collapsed in November. Together with the Russian and Ukrainian co-mediators the Mission succeeded in restarting the process this spring, but already in late July five-sided negotiations again collapsed after Transdniestrian authorities closed six Moldovan schools teaching the state language on the basis of the Latin script. The Transdniestrian authorities also renewed obstacles to Moldovan farmers from enclaves under Moldovan control to collect the harvest from their fields situated on Transdniestrian controlled territory. Later Transdniestrian authorities also confiscated the administration and assets of Moldovan Railways in the region and established a number of new “border”, “customs” and “migration service” posts in the security zone. As a consequence the tensions between both sides increased and the Moldovan side suspended its participation in five-sided negotiations.

    &nbspWe do not see any intention on either side of the river to engage into a violent conflict. In this regard it is important to highlight that there are no significant tensions between the normal populations on both sides of the river. On the other hand there is certainly a lack of dialogue between the Moldovan and Transdniestrian authorities and the inherent danger that an already tense situation might unintentionally escalate into hostilities if somebody makes a mistake or overreacts. That is why we backed the idea to initiate several discussions, at least to decide on some operative issues and not to let the divergences to deepen further until the danger of an open conflict might indeed emerge. The consultations between both sides in Varna on 9 and 10 November were a first step in this direction and we hope that they would contribute to ease the tensions between both sides further.

     What is the situation with the Kolbasna ammunition deposit, which according to agreements had to be transferred to Russia several years ago?

    &nbspThe ammunition depot in Kolbasna is the largest military asset of the Operational Group of the Russian Forces in the Transdniestrian Region of the Republic of Moldova (OGRF). At the OSCE Summit in Istanbul 1999 the Russian Federation has committed itself to withdraw all armaments, ammunition and troops from Moldova by the end of 2002 and the OSCE Ministerial Council in Porto 2002 extended this deadline to 2003. Unfortunately, also the second deadline was not met and today there are still around 20,000 tons of ammunition in Kolbasna. We would assume that this ammunition could be withdrawn within several months in case the withdrawal process would restart and would go ahead without interruptions.

     What is OSCE’s major activity and interests in Moldova at this time?

    &nbspThe Mission is first of all mandated to assist the parties to the conflict in pursuing negotiations on a lasting political settlement of the conflict, consolidating the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova along with an understanding about a special status for the Trans-Dniester region. Secondly, we are mandated to encourage Moldova and Russia in pursuing negotiations on an agreement for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country. We are also charged with working to ensure transparency of the removal and destruction of Russian ammunition and armaments and co-ordinate the financial and technical assistance to facilitate the withdrawal. Finally, the OSCE is engaged in Moldova on a wide range of human dimension issues. Last year the Mission negotiated a solution for the operation of Moldovan Latin script schools. Defusing the crisis around these schools a which appeared in summer this year despite this agreement absorbed most of our resources over the summer. Moreover, the Mission plays an indispensable role in leading and co-ordinating the fight in Moldova against human trafficking, including initiating a major project on victim assistance and witness protection. Last but not least, we support the transformation process of the Moldovan state broadcaster into a public institution and - together with the Council of Europe – are the most active advocate for freedom of the media in the country.

     How would you describe relations between Moldova, Russia, Ukraine and Romania these days?

    &nbspThe OSCE Mission works very closely with the Moldovan government as well as with the Russian and Ukrainian co-mediators and we co-operate of course also with Romania which is an OSCE participating state and which has an interest to see this dispute in its neighborhood resolved. At the moment consultations are ongoing between Moldova and its neighbors as well as with the OSCE, the EU and the US on the initiative of a Stability Pact for Moldova brought forward by the Moldovan President this summer.

     How do you assess the role of EU and US in resolving this regional tension?

    &nbspThe United States as well as the European Union and its members states –all of which are participating states of the OSCE –work very actively - bilaterally as well as in the framework of the OSCE - for a solution of the Transdniestrian dispute.

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