Pridnestrovie Foreign Minister will sign new deals only if Moldova will keep them
Valeri Litskai, Pridnestrovie's Minister of Foreign Affairs, thinks that the best form of confidence building between his unrecognized country and Moldova is for both sides to start keeping the agreements which they previously signed between them. Otherwise, there is no point in sitting down to negotiate new agreements if the old ones can't be kept first. That was what he told Finnish Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva during the current OSCE chairman-in-office's official visit to Tiraspol Thursday.
" - The first question, which we put to the new head of the OSCE, was what happened to the seventy agreements that Moldova signed with us in the past? We can sign thirty new ones, but if they won't be carried out then what is the point of signing them?," asked Foreign Minister Litskai.
If the documents of bilateral working groups are counted, the number of already-signed agreements between Moldova and Pridnestrovie grows from 70 to a total of 148.
Litskai agreed with the Finnish diplomat on the importance of normalizing relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol, and added that this process should be grounded on mutual trust and confidence. Only unconditional fulfillment of all previously signed agreements would strengthen the status negotiation talks.
Direct talks aborted since 2006
The second question, which was discussed during the official OSCE visit to Tiraspol, was the activity of the joint working groups with representatives from both Moldova and Pridnestrovie. These bilateral groups worked in the 1990's, achieving mixed results. Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin publicly claimed that they should now be revived, but has to date failed to forward any concrete, formal proposals to the PMR Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Negotiations with the participation of outside mediators and observers (known as the "5 plus 2" format) were broken off on 28 February 2006. On that date, Moldova unilaterally abandoned the talk, given no explanation. Despite calls by the OSCE, Moldova refused to return to the talks and informally called them fruitless. Later that same week, a planned escalation of customs restrictions went into effect which was described by Tiraspol as an economic blockade. The move, which was not negotiated between the sides, caused an estimated loss in exports of $500 million USD during the first year, and is still in effect. Tiraspol initially refused to rejoin the talks under conditions of ongoing economic pressure, but has since softened its position and went to Madrid in November 2007 to attend a round of talks organized by last year's OSCE chairman-in-office Miguel Angel Moratinos.
" - But last year, in Madrid, the Moldovan side caused our 5+2 meeting to fail," said Valeri Litskai, noting that Moldova simply didn't show up.
"Torpedo bombing" Yushchenko
Valeri Litskai also gave earlier examples of the incapacity of Moldova to negotiate on an even, balanced and objective basis. Among them, he cited the neighboring country's "torpedo bombing" of the 2005 Yushchenko plan, which was conflict resolution draft submitted by the Ukrainian president. Despite falling short of any recognition of Pridnestrovie already-existing "de facto" independence, its ideas for democratization and demilitarization were nevertheless largely welcomed by Pridnestrovie's government.
" - During February 2005, this plan was submitted for consideration, and as soon as July that same year, Chisinau already sabotaged it," said Litskai. "That caused a storm of indignation with the Ukrainian diplomats."
During talks on the negotiations of the Yushenko plan, Moldova's Parliament unilaterally passed a law on the future status of Pridnestrovie, classifying it as a Moldovan "eastern region" and depriving it of any meaningful autonomy. The law was not discussed with Pridnestrovie or any other participants in the 5+2 talks, and was seen by Tiraspol as an open provocation. "What is the point of long talks and negotiations if Moldova's Parliament already made up its mind and decided that our opinion shouldn't be consulted," said one of the negotiators at the time.
The Yuschenko plan sought a mutually acceptable solution in the form of a negotiated settlement that both sides could agree on. When Moldova unilaterally passed its 2005 law, without any talks with us, it led to "a blind situation", in the words of Valeri Litskai. He also noted that two years earlier, in 2003, Russia had also been led into the same trap when Chisinau broke off the planned signing of the Kozak Memorandum, an earlier status settlement plan for the disputed territory.