Leaders of Moldova and its separatist enclave of Transdniestria have held talks for the first time as an east-west tug-of-war comes to a head.
They met in the capital of the breakaway region to try to reach common ground over Moldova’s drive to secure landmark deals with the European Union in November.
Transdniestria, in many ways autonomous but lacking recognition, is distinctly wary of the consequences – while Moldova has its sights set firmly west sees benefits for both parties.
“We believe that the future free economic zone with the European Union creates a foundation for civilised, transparent and stable economic and trade relations between our economy and EU markets,” the Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca told a joint news conference.
In reply, Transdniestria’s President Yevgeny Shevchuk echoed Russia’s hostility to Moldova’s move.
“We are seriously worried about some developments in foreign trade which affect our companies and our interests. We think that unless all the details are cleared this agreement can result in worsening the relations between Tiraspol and Chisinau,” he said, referring to the respective capitals.
A narrow strip of land bordering Ukraine, Transdniestria finds itself caught between its neighbours, both of whom want to seal major political and trade deals with the EU.
In 2006 an overwhelming majority of Transdniestrians, 97 percent, voted in favour of formal independence from Moldova and joining Russia.
The region relies heavily on Moscow’s support but its status remains unresolved.