On May 23, Odesa hosted the next round of negotiations on the Transdniestrian settlement in the 5+2 format (Chisinau and Tiraspol as the parties to the conflict, Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE as mediators, and the EU and the United States as observers). This is the second meeting that was held as part of Ukraine's chairmanship of the OSCE in 2013.
Moldovan Ambassador to Ukraine Ion Stavila spoke in an exclusive interview with UKRINFORM ahead of the meeting in Odesa about how negotiations are going on, what issues are currently relevant, and how the participants in this process assess Ukraine's efforts.
Q: Mr. Ambassador, in your opinion, what results were produced during the last round of negotiations in Lviv, and what issues are to be discussed in Odesa?
A: I must admit that, unfortunately, during the meeting in Lviv in February, we failed to reach any concrete agreements. As is known, the scheduled meeting between Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat and Transdniestrian leader Yevgeny Shevchuk, who planned to sign certain documents, did not take place at that time.
Therefore, as part of the upcoming meeting in Odesa the sides will continue discussions on the issues that were put on the agenda of the previous meeting. These are, first and foremost, the issues related to the provision of conditions for the free movement of persons, goods and services between the right and left banks of the Dniester. In a broader context, the settlement of these problems will be an important achievement in promoting confidence-building measures in the interests of people living on both banks of the Dniester, especially those who live in the security zone.
The sides will continue discussions on registration plates for vehicles from the Transdniestrian region. Here, the main differences lie in determining the order for the registration of these plates, on which elements of statehood must be present. This is a difficult question. A serious debate on this matter was conducted in Lviv. We made a significant step forward. A neutral sample of such plates was even produced, with no symbols of statehood. Although a lot of work was done in this direction, the debate on this matter will continue.
The activity of working groups on confidence-building in various areas will also be considered in Odesa, in particular, the economy, trade, social spheres, health, education, cooperation between law enforcement agencies, emergency response, and the protection of the ecosystem of the Dniester. It should be noted that these meetings are continuing, including at the level of political representatives of Chisinau and Tiraspol. And judging by the statements of participants in the negotiation process, the discussions are not easy, but they demonstrate the interest of all parties in the promotion of the dialogue and a speedy settlement of the current problems.
Q: The questions that you listed belong only to the first two baskets of negotiations on the Transdniestrian settlement. That is, these are the aspects of the socio-economic and humanitarian spheres. Will the sides in Odesa discuss political issues (from the third basket), which seem to be the most difficult?
A: It's necessary to recognize that discussions on the issues put on the agenda, which was adopted in Vienna in April 2012 in the 5+2 format, are developing unevenly. Our Transdniestrian and Russian partners make a special emphasis on the points included in the first two baskets. They believe that today there are no relevant prerequisites to start discussing the aspects of the political settlement and determination of the status of Transdniestria.
At the same time, we are insisting on the discussion of issues of the political settlement of the conflict. However, we are not saying that today or tomorrow we have to work out the status of Transdniestria. We propose proceeding to the general debate on the fundamental principles, approaches and prospects for resolving the question of the status of Transdniestria as an integral part of the Republic of Moldova. The creation of the political conditions required for this is also a very important political aspect of the process that should be settled in the 5+2 format. I believe that under the current conflict, economic, social and humanitarian issues put on our agenda are political in nature. We see them as part of the overall process of political settlement as the elements of the future status of Transdniestria. However, we want to simultaneously discuss concrete political aspects related to the determination of special status.
We understand the complexity of this process. At the same time, we are confident that "our conflict" can be resolved. We do not have ethnic and religious antagonisms. We are determined to slowly but surely moving forward. The main thing in this process is not to stand still, and certainly not to roll back.
Q: How do you assess the role of Ukraine as the OSCE chair-in-office in resolving the Transdniestrian problem?
A: Quite positively. I believe that Ukraine plays a very active and constructive role in the Transdniestrian settlement process, which the Ukrainian Chairmanship of the OSCE identified as a priority in its activities. Several facts are a bright example of this. In particular, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara made his first visit to Chisinau and Tiraspol as OSCE chairperson-in-office. A meeting in the 5+2 format was held in Lviv, and a meeting in the same format will be held in Odesa, and regular consultations are held with the special representative of the OSCE chairperson-in-office, Ambassador Andriy Deshchytsia, etc.
Q: In your opinion, what effect does the current difficult political situation in Moldova have on the Transdniestrian settlement process?
A: In my opinion, it's obvious that the political turmoil in Chisinau cannot but have a certain negative impact on the overall atmosphere of the negotiations on the Transdniestrian settlement. And the political situation in Tiraspol is also difficult. But, despite this, the process is ongoing, and we are grateful to all of our international partners for supporting the positive dynamics of meetings.