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Public Discussion: What are the chances of unfreezing the frozen Nistru conflict?

Press Release
on the organization of the debate
What are the chances of unfreezing the frozen Nistru conflict?”. Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”. Public debates series held by IPN with the support of the Hanns Seidel Foundation

Held on March 2, 2017, Debate 71 brought together Ana Guþu, president of the Right Party; Socialist MP Vlad Batrîncea; Democratic MP Eugeniu Nichiforciuc; Viorel Cibotaru, president of the Liberal-Democratic Party; historian Octavian Þîcu; and Igor Boþan, the Project’s standing expert.

The politicians attending the debate were invited specifically because they represent the most common views on how the conflict started and how it should be settled, as we mark 25 years since the beginning of its armed phase. Regretfully we couldn’t have representatives of the Transnistrian de facto authorities on the discussion panel as well, as their position is essential to the resolution of the conflict. However this “truncated” format reflects quite well the situation within the official settlement format, which also lacks adequate communication between the sides, let alone consensus.

Even if we could, by miracle, have left-bank representatives at this debate, this wouldn’t guarantee a successful outcome, given that there’s no unanimity on the settlement solution on the right bank either.

So the main goal of the debate was to discuss potential solutions and try to approach the existing views.

In particular, a part of the speakers said the conflict was a proxy war waged by Russia against the Republic of Moldova, which had just proclaimed independence. Others consider that this was a fratricidal war and often the majority of people plead for keeping the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova and for continuing the talks in the 5+2 format. But there are politicians who consider that these should be frozen.

Viorel Cibotaru, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party, said the Transnistrian issue for him is not only a research or political matter, but also a personal matter because he was involved in historical actions of this conflict, related to its roots, development and armed stage and also to the attempt to settle it. For him, it was absolutely evident that this was a war between the Republic of Moldova, which just recently obtained its independence and tried to assert it, and the Russian Federation and its armed forces. Even if for various reasons – diplomatic or other kinds of stories – some use the notion of armed conflict, for him this was a war. Now we witness a political conflict between the political class of Chisinau and the political elites of Tiraspol, while a conflict settlement can be announced only by those who promote geopolitical interests.

Ana Gutu, leader of the Party “The Right”, said that an aggression war was started by Russia against Moldova on March 2, 1992. It was exactly the day Moldova joined the UN as a sovereign and independent state. The ceasefire agreement signed by the then President Mircea Snegur and his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin on July 21, 1992 legalized the stay of the Russian 14th Army on Moldova’s territory and this was the biggest made mistake because Russia, as a party to the conflict and an aggressor state, in accordance with the same agreement, is also the party that keeps peace in the zone and this is a contradiction. Actually, the Republic of Moldova lost this war because it was forced to concede a part of its territory and now Moldova does not control this territory. This conflict now suits the Transnistrian administration and Moldovan politicians who have business interests in the zone and everyone knows about the contraband that is smuggled through Transnistria.

Socialist MP Vlad Batrancea said that conflict was a fratricidal one because we are one people. It was generated both by the political class from both banks of the Nistru, which could not provide a solution and a very clear future for both of the sides, and by forces from outside. The then political class is to blame for this dispute. There are the 5+2 format talks now and it is good that the great powers of the world are involved in these, but the problem resides in the relationship between Tiraspol and Chisinau. If a consensus and a formula to suit both sides of the Nistru are reached, the conflict can be settled.

Doctor of History Octavian Tacu said the historical perspective is more flexible and allows adopting a long-lasting approach to this conflict. This is seen as an episode of a Russian-Romanian conflict that has probably persisted since 1791, when the Russian Empire reached the Nistru and started to build the Tiraspol fortress that became a benchmark in the imperial strategies of the Russian Federation in relation to the Balkans. The events of 1992 are a follow-up to what was there in 1812 and 1940 because it is the same scenario that was implemented with the aim of building a bridge head of influence on the Balkans, the Romanian Countries, Constantinople, etc.

“We saw in 1924 how a Romanian mass was created or rather managed on the Nistru. This was called the Autonomous Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic that in a very short historical context became the center of attraction of the Soviet policies aimed at modeling the Moldovan identity built on August 2, 1940 by the merger with Bessarabia. From historical viewpoint, the merger of these entities created a situation of incompatibility and could last until the Soviet Union exerted full control over this territory. Amid the national renaissance and emergence of forces that longed for the proclamation of independence, at the end of the 1990s we witnessed Moscow’s concrete steps aimed at building this separatist regime that supported the aggression war of the Russian Federation, which now militarily occupies the eastern part of the Republic of Moldova,” stated the historian.

Igor Botan, standing expert of the IPN project, considers the Transnistrian conflict is not eminently an ethnical, ideological or religious conflict, but is an emergent one or a consequence of the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, which was an ideological empire. For some, the dismemberment had very negative connotations, while for others meant a new start and this conflict derived from here, being fueled by the mistakes of the political class.

The expert said that the Transnistrian region was presented as the last bastion of the Soviet Union, in terms of a formula of resistance to dismemberment. On the other side of the Nistru, there was an enthusiastic wave of national renaissance and these two perceptions were used by the politicians from both sides of the Nistru, not necessarily with ill will. There were a lot of phobias that ultimately led to what we call today a conflict.

Democratic MP Eugeniu Nichiforciuc said the Moldovan Government’s work program clearly stipulates that the reunification of the country is its priority. Every effort should be made for the country to be reunified in the future. There are communication platforms and working meetings are held. The position of the Democratic Party and the position of the Government is that Moldova should be regarded as a unitary state with a special status for the Transnistrian region. It is very important for a permanent dialogue to exist between the two sides of the Nistru and such a dialogue now makes headway. Regrettably, there are yet politicians who promote the country’s federalization.

The Agency published 7 news stories on the debate (see the English version of on 02.03.17, “Frozen Nistru conflict and chances of unfreezing it, IPN debate” -; on 03.03.17: “Octavian Tacu: Transnistrian conflict does not have long-term solutions” -; “Vlad Batrancea: Nistru conflict was a fratricidal one” -; “Eugeniu Nikiforchuk: Moldova should be regarded only as a unitary state, with special status for Transnistria” -; “Ana Gutu: Special status for Transnistria means Moldova’s geopolitical suicide” -; “Igor Botan: Transnistrian conflict is a consequence of dismemberment of Soviet Union” -; “Viorel Cibotaru: There are now no possibilities of settling Transnistrian conflict” -

Proof of deliverables is attached.

Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN