Vitaly Ignatiev: “The Moldovan side continues to evade holding a meeting in the “1+1” format”


It seems more important for Kishinev “to shout down” Pridnestrovie in the information field, rather than consistently work towards resolving the problems, said the Acting Foreign Minister of the PMR

It has been almost two months since the previous meeting of representatives on political issues. The “1+1” meeting was held in Tiraspol on October 9. What is the reason for such a slow dynamics of the dialogue? How did Tiraspol perceive Victor Osipov’s promises to return Pridnestrovie to Moldova in three to five years? You will find the answers to these and other questions from the Moldavskie Vedomosti newspaper in the interview of Acting Foreign Minister Vitaly Ignatiev.

- Pridnestrovie is disappointed about slowdown in communication with the Moldovan side after the conference on confidence-building measures held in Bavaria. The Pridnestrovian side has always stands for consistent and active contacts at the level of representatives on political issues and has repeatedly reaffirmed its readiness to hold such meetings not less than once every two weeks, and when necessary more often.

Based on the principle of prioritization, according to the schedule the next meeting should take place in Kishinev at the invitation of my Moldovan colleague Viktor Osipov. However, the Moldovan side, despite the existence of a list of critical and burning issues, continues to evade holding a meeting in the “1+1” format.  

Moreover, Viktor Osipov sent the Pridnestrovian side and colleagues from the OSCE a letter informing that the next meeting could take place only after the formation of a new government in Moldova. A reasonable question arises: how can we solve the current issues, if one of the parties makes the dialogue conditional on the existence of some political power? Then Victor Osipov’s mandate as a representative on political issues remains the same.

It is surprising that while refusing to meet with Pridnestrovie the Moldovan colleague concurrently finds opportunities to meet with various international representatives, as well as give interviews, which contain, to put it mildly, not quite correct accusatory rhetoric.

Meanwhile, Pridnestrovie continues to insist on a meeting. In late November, I sent an invitation to hold a meeting in the “1+1” format in Kishinev involving experts in the field of railway transport to discuss the alarming situation in that area. The Moldovan side again refused.

It seems strange that against the background of objective contradictions that need to be discussed and addressed in the interests of citizens, Moldovan representatives focus on the work in the media environment, and not on the communication with Pridnestrovie.

Probably, the reason is that the arguments of the Republic of Moldova, practicing today the unfriendly approach in relations with Pridnestrovie, can be convincing only if they are designated as part of the monologue. It seems that it is more important for the Moldovan side “to shout down” Pridnestrovie in the information field, rather than consistently work towards resolving the problems that negatively affect the lives of citizens. This approach is understandable. But it cannot be acceptable, in terms of functional responsibilities and powers of the representatives of the parties on political issues.

- You have mentioned the problematic situation in the railway sector. What is it about?

- At present, the management of State Enterprise “Railway of Moldova” is taking measures to restrict routes of delivery of imported goods to Pridnestrovie. The parties have faced this problem for the third time, the crux of which is the refusal of the regional railways of Ukraine to address cargo to the station “Slobodka-export”. This refusal is connected with repeated telegrams from the Railway of Moldova, which come to the management of “Ukrzaliznytsia” and contain an instruction to send all cargo to the station “Rybnitsa”.

The difference between these routes is not only technological. The point is that when sending the cargo to the station “Slobodka-export” on the territory of Ukraine their transportation through Pridnestrovie is provided by a Pridnestrovian locomotive and a rolling stock. In turn, when sending the product to the station “Rybnitsa” a Moldovan locomotive appears, and the tariff for transportation of one tonne of cargo has more than doubled. Given the distance and the condition of the rolling stock of the State Enterprise “Railway of Moldova” the problem not only with a significant rise in costs of the logistics arises, but also with the unjustifiable delays in the delivery of goods.

A similar problem emerged in the summer of 2012 (almost right after the signing and executing of all agreements under the Protocol Decision of 30 March 2012), this summer and continues today. In 2012 and this summer the parties found a solution - the SE “Railway of Moldova” by mutual consent of the parties sent a telegram to “Ukrzaliznytsia”, in which it was stated that a decision on the harmonization to direct cargo to the station “Slobodka-export” may be taken by the “Ukrzaliznytsia”.

Now, however, the Moldovan side’s approaches have changed dramatically. Imports into Pridnestrovie with the use of the station “Slobodka-export” is completely forbidden. At the same time the Moldovan side continues to maintain that it has nothing to do with the problem, which, however, is not true, since Pridnestrovie and Ukrainian colleagues have telegrams of the RM that caused the ban. These telegrams were shown to the Moldovan side and international partners during the two meetings of the expert (working) groups on railways and communications held in November, 2015, but the Moldovan representatives went on defensive position and cynical lobbying business interests of their freight forwarders, profiting from the losses of Pridnestrovian enterprises, monthly amounting to 200 thousand dollars.

The Moldovan side replaced as well the head of its working group with a person who unrelated to the management of the State Enterprise “Railway of Moldova”. Apparently, the RM uses any tools in order to artificially reduce the probability of a compromise in the railway sector, guided, first of all, by the intention to sting the Pridnestrovian side more painfully and cover up its commercial interests through Ukraine. Pridnestrovie will continue its efforts to establish dialogue, but now it has to seek compensatory mechanisms of negating monthly losses for its own enterprises.

- What is the situation in the activities of other expert (working) groups?

- To date this integral support mechanism of the negotiation process is also hardly characterized by high efficiency. By and large, the expert (working) groups faced with a total deficit of contacts and political will to find compromise solutions.

Only in November, 2015 the Moldovan side refused the meetings of expert (working) groups on education, regulatory and document support of citizens, the termination of criminal cases. At the level of other specialists there is also a certain slippage.

Of course, it is quite challenging to expect any progress in the conditions when the RM refuses to meet or orients its experts to ensure that they not to consent in no case to Pridnestrovie’s initiatives and not to reach decisions. In the context of reducing the dynamics and quality of the work of sectoral experts the useful basis is watered down in the form of draft decisions for consideration at the higher levels of the dialogue.

Therefore, today cooperation between the parties is characterized by centrifugal processes, bringing us back to the period of the beginning of 2012. The Moldovan side tries in every possible way to ignore any pressing topics, calling a natural and logical wish of Pridnestrovie to solve them quickly as some “ambitions” and “speculations”.

The Moldovan side’s attempt to hush the problems up, hide them behind the stream of  stock phrases and protocol events, including formal calls for further work of the “5+2” format is ephemeral. It is, on the one hand, aimed at diverting public attention from the real problems existing in the dialogue, from the constantly increasing discriminatory unilateral steps of Moldova and Ukraine and, on the other hand, at creating the illusion of complacency. Such an approach is hardly justified because it prevents from perceiving reality adequately. Experts’ work should be stimulated, the level of the political representatives of the parties should take decisions and the problems should be addressed. Regular attempts to “hide head in the sand” prevent the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of citizens of Pridnestrovie and Moldova.

- It is obvious that the problem of criminal cases is very sensitive for Pridnestrovie.

- Moldova is purposefully trying to interfere in the criminal jurisdiction of Pridnestrovie, which leads to unbalance of the situation and the growth of mutual distrust. In fact, the Moldovan side violates the agreements of the negotiations reached earlier, which clearly shows that Pridnestrovie independently carries out law enforcement functions in the controlled area.

Only in Bendery - the region under high-security protection - there is an additional opportunity for the RM police and the Pridnestrovian militia to conduct their activities in cooperation within the framework of the joint operational investigations group (JOIG). But here, the Moldovan side usually acts in a unilateral manner that provokes escalating tensions. Repeated attempts of abduction of citizens of Pridnestrovie, search of the apartment of Bendery city residents, detention of vehicles registered in Pridnestrovie, and other destabilizing actions of law enforcement agencies of the RM located in Bendery are willful violation of the existing agreements, including in the framework of the JCC.

The problem of politically motivated criminal cases, especially given that a number of their defendants are under international search, is an obvious factor of infringement of the rights of Pridnestrovian population to freedom of movement and personal liberty. Moldova blocks international contacts of Pridnestrovie through criminal cases, exerts personal pressure on a number of Pridnestrovian officials and businessmen.

And the nature of recent actions and statements made by Moldovan representatives demonstrates apparent unwillingness to solve or even to discuss this problem with the Pridnestrovian side. If in the spring and summer of 2015 the Moldovan side carried out a kind of “game of constructiveness”, in recent interviews Victor Osipov fully showed the RM’s position.

With the help of international donors the Moldovan side organized two events - in Kishinev and Northern Ireland, a little earlier, in April, 2015, a working meeting of experts of Pridnestrovie and Moldova took place, in the framework of meetings between representatives on political issues Victor Osipov promised that the work was carried out and the RM was seeking appropriate solutions to the problem.

Now, judging by the statements in the media, Pridnestrovie’s residents criminally prosecuted in the Republic of Moldova are considered as criminals who can be held accountable for their actions. It becomes obvious that the study of so-called international experience, implemented by the Moldovan side for international donations in the summer of this year, was needed in order to justify and further strengthen its arguments on the continuation of criminal prosecution of Pridnestrovian citizens. Regret should be expressed that the assistance of international donors has been transformed into a “disservice” to the negotiation process.

At the same time the political representative of the RM promises the absence of criminal cases against those who is “constructively involved” in the negotiation process. It seems that the Moldovan side defines itself the level of constructiveness. Given Victor Osipov’s statement that my views differ significantly from the position of the Moldovan side in terms of conflict resolution, there is reason to believe that my “constructiveness” can also result in quite specific decisions of Moldova’s Prosecutor’s Office.

It turns out that the trajectory of negotiation process and the need to shift in the so-called “constructive field” (according to the Moldovan side) will be adjusted by the Moldovan side with the help of the criminal proceedings. The similar approach could hardly be acceptable.

- However Victor Osipov said in his recent interview that the criminal cases were connected with the methods of creating problems for citizens from both banks of the Dniester.

- It merely confirms the view that the Republic of Moldova uses the criminal “cudgel” to punish undesirable citizens of Pridnestrovie, and to exert pressure on the Pridnestrovian side in the negotiations, which obviously has nothing to do with the conduct of a civilized, open and compromise dialogue at the negotiating table. There is the following situation: contradictions arise between the parties, the Moldovan side is unable to offer compromise and mutually acceptable solutions, and as a mechanism to compensate for its own negotiating incapacity actively initiates criminal cases.

In particular, recently, Victor Osipov said that there is a need to respect rights to private ownership of land in the Dubassary district of the PMR as a condition for the termination of criminal proceedings. It should be noted that Moldovan representatives came up with such an idea before. However, in the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic there is no private ownership of land, the corresponding referendum held in 2003 was recognized as failed due to insufficient turnout. If someone in Moldova thinks that they can arbitrarily transfer the land on the constitutional territory of Pridnestrovie in the private ownership of Moldovan farmers through its orders uncoordinated with Pridnestrovie, it is a very dangerous delusion. The attempt to impose Moldovan jurisdiction in Pridnestrovie in any form causes and will cause naturally resistance.

The situation in the negotiation process will hardly improve if Pridnestrovie uses the same tools.

- Pridnestrovie reacted painfully to the agreements reached between Moldova and Ukraine. However, Moldovan representatives argue that the measures taken will improve the situation, particularly in the field of logistics.

- Initiating the tactics of “small steps”, the parties proceeded from the fact that confidence in the negotiation process is the building that needs to be constructed together from the “bricks” of positive steps conducive to improving the situation in various spheres of socio-economic, humanitarian and legal cooperation.

However, the decision on joint control near the border of Pridnestrovie is an unilateral step that tears the fabric of negotiating paradigm. Instead of cooperation and joint compromise solutions to long-standing problems today the negotiation process is divided into separate segments as a result of discriminatory measures of negotiators against Pridnestrovie.

It is regrettable that Ukraine being a mediator in the “5+2” format condones the restrictive actions of the Republic of Moldova in the economy and freedom of movement of citizens.

Implementation of plans for joint control will provoke a total blockade of Pridnestrovian imports and revision of the whole architecture of cooperation in the field of economy, safety and freedom of movement between Pridnestrovie, Moldova and Ukraine. Pridnestrovie does not intend to put up with the new imposed configuration of its foreign trade activities, involving additional restrictions.

The three participants of the “Permanent Conference ...” persistently provoking this crisis are entirely to bear the brunt of the impact of the consequences of radicalization of the situation, the growth of tension and its extrapolation to other areas of cooperation. The prospects of negotiation process in this environment are becoming increasingly vague, because it is obvious that the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, and in many cases the European Union no longer consider it necessary to consult with Pridnestrovie, even when making decisions that directly affect it.

An additional factor of instability, unpredictability and artificial unbalancing of the situations are attempts to destroy the peacekeeping operation on the Dniester by Moldova and a number of its partners.

Today, Moldovan representatives act purposefully in the direction of reducing the functionality of the peacekeeping mission and its working bodies, especially the Joint Control Commission. The approval of Russian representatives in the JCC is blocked, provocative actions in the Security zone are carried out, including exercises with the involvement of military contingent of NATO member-states, activities to verify the readiness of the joint peacekeeping posts for the autumn-winter period are ignored. Through high international platform Moldovan representatives speak against the peacekeeping operation, requiring its replacement with some other mission.

Pridnestrovie sees these actions as short-sighted and inadmissible. Only through the effective operation of the peacekeepers, the JCC and Joint Military Command the parties manage to maintain a controlled situation in the Security zone. The peacekeeping operation on the Dniester has a unique legitimacy, public support, and its performance indicators speak for themselves.

The campaign against the peacekeeping operation, implemented by Moldova within the Joint Control Commission, on international platforms and in the media, is inspired by a number of Western states seeking to eliminate Russian presence in Eastern Europe, and is contrary to the security interests of citizens.

- What's next? Victor Osipov speaks about the possibility of returning Pridnestrovie within three to five years. Valeriu Strelet, on the contrary, has recently openly stated that there is no settlement plan in Moldova.

- Pridnestrovie considers Valeriu Strelet’s statements as a very symptomatic and close to reality.

Throughout the year, various international representatives “fed” the parties with information that a certain common position, a common policy on the negotiation process with Pridnestrovie will be formed in Moldova, which will contribute to the solution of pressing issues.

However, as we see, that did not happen. Moreover, the Moldovan side itself struck a series of hefty blows at that paradigm persistently advocated by the international community.

In the absence of a constructive paradigm the ambitions and desire not to look like a loser or a weak come to the forefront the temptation to act with the use of hard unilateral tools increases.

A systematic and consistent approach and responsibility for decisions distinguish Pridnestrovie. We are ready for cooperation and open communication at the negotiating table. However, the interaction space is constantly narrowing due to irresponsible steps taken by some participants in the negotiations, today it is already reminiscent of the “eye of a needle”.

We hope that the German diplomacy in the forthcoming Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2016 will be able to promote the negotiating paradigm, rejection of unilateral steps and a real willingness to work on the search for compromise solutions. What is important are not announcements, establishment of time schedules, but the painstaking, responsible and creative work. The most important thing in it is mutual respect, trust, coordination, and rejection of unilateral steps, including the revision of mistakes made, including plans to establish the joint control at the checkpoint “Kuchurgan”. Pridnestrovie is always ready to participate actively in this dialog.

Vladimir Ivanov

Source: the Moldavskie Vedomosti newspaper