Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
July 26, 2005
The United States and the Transnistrian Conflict
Transnistria is a separatist region within Moldova, located between the Dniester River and the Ukrainian border. The roots of the modern conflict between Transnistria and Moldova date to 1924, when the Soviet Union established the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (M.A.S.S.R.). in the area to the east of the Dniester River (Transnistria). At the end of World War II both Transnistria and the historical Bessarabia on the west side of the river came under the control of the newly-renamed M.S.S.R.
In 1989, against the backdrop of "glasnost" and "perestroika," the Supreme Soviet of Moldova, led by a group called the Popular Front, began enacting measures to reinforce Moldovan national identity and its historical and cultural connections to Romania, followed quickly by a declaration of sovereignty by the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic. Dissatisfied with the measures taken by the Moldovan Supreme Soviet and fearing reunification with Romania, residents of Transnistria voted for Transnistrian independence from Moldova in September 1991. Soon after, fighting broke out between the government forces and Transnistrians, leaving over 100,000 internally displaced persons on both sides.
In response to the fighting, in March 1992 the foreign ministers of Moldova, Ukraine, Russia and Romania agreed upon a set of basic principles for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. This agreement was expanded upon in July 1992 when Moldova and Russia created a demilitarized zone along the Dniester River and reconfirmed their respect for both the territorial integrity of Moldova and the need for a special status for Trasnistria.
Since 1992, talks concerning the status of Transnistria have continued, facilitated by the involvement of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which became involved in negotiations in 1993. Although a Memorandum on the Principles of Settlement of Relations was signed by both sides in May of 1997, talks on the matter subsequently stalled, as have numerous attempts at mediation since.
In 2002 negotiators developed what was known as "the Kiev document," which outlined a basic structure of federal governance for Transnistria. These negotiations laid the groundwork for a 2003 initiative, proposed by Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin, which included provisions for Transnistrian participation in the creation of a new Moldovan constitution. Although the basic plan was rejected by Transnistria, both sides stated their agreement on the importance of reintegrating the country in short order.
Since that time, negotiations broke down in late 2003 following the collapse of talks surrounding a separate, Russian-proposed settlement to the conflict (the Kozak Plan). In the summer of 2004, Transnistrian authorities took measures to close schools in Transnistria which used the Latin alphabet in favor of ones which used the Cyrillic script. Controversy surrounding these actions stalled talks further, creating delays in the peace process.
Most recently, certain key factors -- Moldova’s accession to a three-year Membership Action Plan with the European Union, as well as renewed Ukrainian interest in a resolution of the Transnistrian conflict (coincident with the most recent Ukrainian presidential election) -- have given new impetus to settlement discussions.
U.S. Policy and Role
The United States advocates a peaceful resolution of the separatist conflict in Transnistria. The United States supports the territorial integrity of Moldova and views as important the democratic and economic development of Moldovan governance. We support a credible and sustainable negotiated solution to the conflict. This will contribute to Moldova’s democratic and economic development as well as to the security of the Black Sea region.
We encourage the sides, with the help of the international community, to strengthen their efforts to find a sustainable and peaceful resolution to the conflict.