Ex-Soviet Moldova wants major powers to sign a declaration guaranteeing its neutrality, its president said, a step that could ease the way for a peace deal over its breakway Transdniestria region.Russia is wary that Moldova could join NATO and has said a guarantee the tiny state will not join the alliance is a pre-condition for Moscow, a major player in the region, backing a peace deal with Transdniestria.
“Under the constitution our country is neutral,” Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin said in an interview published on Tuesday in Russian daily Kommersant.
“Now it is desirable to fix this status additionally in a declaration saying that everyone acknowledges our neutrality.”
“This document should be signed by … Moldova as a sovereign state, as well as Russia, Ukraine, the United States, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe,” he added.
Transdniestria is one of a handful of so-called “frozen conflicts” around Russia’s borders that flared up as the Soviet Union collapsed and remain a source of instability today.
The Russian-speaking region, which is Moldova’s industrial heartland, broke away in early 1990s over fears that Chisinau could merge with neighbouring Romania, with which it shares ethnic and language ties.
Russia has deployed a peacekeeping force in the region and also has strong influence on the separatists.
In 2003 Moldova rejected a Kremlin proposal to re-unify Moldova as a federal state. Moscow blamed interference from Washington and NATO for the failure of that deal. Western-backed peace plans have also foundered.
A top Russian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters last month that assurances Moldova would never become a NATO member were a pre-condition for Moscow backing any peace proposal.
Russia is fiercely opposed to moves by ex-Soviet neighbours Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO and is anxious that Moldova should not head down the same path. Moscow views NATO expansion nearer to its borders as a threat to its security.Â