International partners are trying to keep the Transdniestrian settlement in the priority list of issues of the Moldovan leadership at the time when the domestic political situation forces the main political stakeholders to concentrate solely on the struggle for power
As a result of the ongoing action-packed domestic political developments in Moldova, the ruling coalition, as many expected, has lost the parliamentary majority, bringing the Chicu government closer to resignation. These factors allow for an unambiguous conclusion that the country is plunging into another political crisis which is difficult to predict amid rapidly deteriorating sanitary and epidemiological situation.
According to experts, uncertainty and degradation will cover a significant number of state industries and areas of strategic importance for the Moldovan statehood. One of them is the Transdniestrian settlement, which got a new meaning during the pandemic. Today it calls for effective practical measures able to stop the rapidly collapsing dialogue between the two banks of the Dniester.
Meanwhile, truly inexplicable episodes are sometimes happening around the negotiation process, which do not allow us to say with certainty to what extent the Transdniestrian dossier is under control. It will just suffice to mention the agreement between Igor Dodon and Vadim Krasnoselsky on a simplified regime of movement for residents from several villages, which was literally the next day overshadowed by the conflict situation, nearly nullifying the decision made by the political leaders of the parties. No less strange is the statement by the Moldovan Foreign Ministry regarding certain projects implemented by the Russian military on the left bank of the Dniester. The MFAEI’s harsh press release regarding the illegal Russian military presence, disseminated by the Moldovan media, was unexpectedly eventually removed from the ministry’s official website without any clear explanation.
The international community seems to be watching with concern how events in relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol are developing. Authorized representatives of the involved countries have for several months been avoiding any assessments and public statements about what is happening on the Nistru banks. A hasty visit paid to Moldova by the Special Representative of the Albanian OSCE Chairmanship Thomas Mayer-Harting in the midst of the pandemic and the growing number of COVID-19 infections can be explained by nothing else than a desire to understand what is happening and, perhaps, to propose something concrete.
Meanwhile, there is no doubt that external players clearly understand that the political situation in Chisinau is not quite appropriate for (re)launching any positive dynamics in the negotiation process. And the fierce electoral struggle for the presidency coming this fall deprives the Transdniestrian settlement of the prospect to achieve at least any tangible results this year.
Press releases of the meetings of the OSCE delegation with Chisinau and Tiraspol representatives are largely similar in tone, except for certain specific topics that are of fundamental interest to either side. Nevertheless, it is crucial that both banks abide by almost the same guidelines related to the need to implement the agreements reached recently, which, in turn, can help avoid further worsening of the general situation and increase in local misunderstandings.
Most likely, the main topic of negotiations between diplomats was the full resumption of the negotiation process and the holding of a 5+2 meeting. The experience of the previous meeting in Bratislava suggests that expectations should be extremely rational. As you know, in April Chisinau already tried to convene an emergency 5+2 meeting online – however, the principled position of individual participants, most likely Moscow and Tiraspol, impeded this initiative. So far, official statements do not make it possible to clearly understand whether such a meeting remains relevant for Chisinau, although it still uses any opportunity to publicly report its claims to the Tiraspol administration.
At a time of extreme uncertainty, it is obvious that it is the international mediators who should take the initiative and offer the parties a trajectory of movement towards breaking the next negotiating deadlock, in which Chisinau and Tiraspol find themselves with unenviable regularity. However, the political situation in the country, with is less and less predictable, will most likely negatively affect the feasibility of the initiatives proposed by external partners, and the entire settlement process as a whole.
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