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Chisinau suggested wide-ranging rights of self-rule for Transnistria

PanARMENIAN.Net - A senior Moldovan official on Tuesday floated an offer of extensive autonomy to the renegade province Transnistria, in an unprecedented bid to end one of the world's most intractable frozen conflicts. Russian-speaking Transnistria seceded from Romanian-speaking Moldova after a civil war ending in 1992.

Reunification talks have been in progress since 1994, but have repeatedly stalled on disagreement between Chisinau and Tiraspol on Transnistrian rights under Moldovan sovereignty were Transnistria ever to return to Moldovan control.

Vasyl Shova, Moldovan minister for reintegration and the ruling Communist government's top negotiator in the Transnistria dialogue, in a newspaper article suggested wide-ranging rights of self-rule for Transnistria, and other substantial Moldovan concessions, in exchange for early reunification.

Transnistria should have the status of a self-ruling republic, with its own constitution, judicial system, police force, and the right of secession from Moldova under some circumstances, Shova said.

The suggestions marked a dramatic shift and weakening of a long- standing Moldovan position arguing Transnistria should return to Moldovan control only with the status of an autonomous region subject to Moldova's national constitution and law enforcement agencies.

Shova's offer also proposed a constitutional amendment mandating Moldovan international neutrality, thereby rejecting NATO accession at a future date, and near-total demilitarisation.

Other features of the "discussion project," as Shova called the new proposal list, included constitutional guarantees of Transnistrian individual and collective rights throughout Moldova, and a guarantee of 20 per cent of seats in the Moldovan parliament to Transnistrian MPs.

A detailed version of the offer is prepared and Moldova is ready to discuss it at the next round of Moldova-Transnistria talks, he said.

Were the Transnistrian side to accept the reunification plan, the Moldovan parliament - currently dominated by President Vladimir Voronin's ruling Communist party - would within a month approve constitutional and legal changes, Shova promised.

Shova's high-profile offer came days after Voronin in an interview with Spain's El Pais newspaper called on newly-elected Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev to assist in resolving the Moldova- Transnistria conflict, "which would give him the laurels of a leader able to resolve international conflicts, in the international arena."

Since Medvedev's election to the Russian presidency in March, Moldova has intensified diplomatic efforts to obtain movement on the stalled Transnistria conflict.

Russia has long supported Transnistria in the dispute, citing a need to protect ethnic Russians, and the alleged danger of more armed conflict if Russian peacekeepers are pulled out.

If put into effect, the Shova reunification package would remove most if not all grounds currently used by the Kremlin to maintain Russian Army troops in Transnistria, the DPA reports.

After the June 20 meeting with his Moldovan counterpart Zinaida Grechanaya, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin had passed to him proposals on the Transnistrian conflict settlement.

Voronin was earlier quoted as saying that Moldova will quit the GUAM if it's necessary to resolve the problem.
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