Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pridnestrovie told "Kommersant" about relations with Kishinev, Moscow and Kiev.
This year, the OSCE chairing Germany managed to launch negotiations on the Pridnestrovian conflict settlement. However, the negotiators have not much to boast of yet, except for the resumption of the dialogue. Kommersant correspondent Vladimir Solovyov tried to find out from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pridnestrovie Vitaly Ignatiev how Tiraspol hopes to achieve recognition of its independence and why they do not recognize the self-proclaimed republics of Donbass.
— This year, after a long pause, 5+2 negotiations were resumed (Moldova and Pridnestrovie are parties to the conflict, the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine are the mediators, the US and the EU are observers). There were hopes for Germany, which is chairing the OSCE. But the negotiators have come up with nothing by the end of the year.
— It is a difficult and complex question, to be honest. I can answer simply...
— The simple answer is that it’s all fault of the Moldovan side?
— Not all, but in many respects. As noted by Mr. Meier-Klodt (Special Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Cord Meier-Klodt — Kommersant), speaking at a recent forum in Kishinev, the dialogue is a tango danced by two. The negotiations are not simply without results, in my opinion, they are experiencing a state of stagnation with regressive dynamism.
—Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration of Moldova Gheorghe Balan said that next year Kishinev will present some framework within which Kishinev will negotiate with Tiraspol. Do you know anything about this?
— It reminds me, if you remember like in “Viy” by Gogol the main character drew a chalk circle around himself. The Moldovan side is trying to fence off from the negotiation process and all the participants, including Pridnestrovie, in order not to work within the paradigm that all agreed upon, not to execute agreements with their signatures as well. Nobody forced the Moldovan side to sign these agreements.
—In terms of recognition so desired by Tiraspol, the key position is the one of Moscow. In 2008, the Russian Federation has recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The position towards Pridnestrovie remains the same: Moscow recognizes the territorial integrity of Moldova. How do you live with it? Are you trying to explain to Moscow somehow that you also must be recognized?
—In general, we live well. Our main problem is the blockade imposed by Moldova with the support of Ukraine that enhanced since 2014. This is the main problem. As for the position of Moscow, this is a question for the Russian partners, I cannot comment on behalf of them.
—Is it hoped that given the presidential elections in Moldova on October 30 and in Pridnestrovie on December 11 something can be solved before the year ends or you turn the page and wait for 2017?
—We are ready to work on all issues of the negotiation process. Pridnestrovie has already forwarded the initiative for three times to hold the meeting of the “Permanent Conference…” in the 5+2 format. Therefore, we do not wait.
— I have long had the impression that the resolution of the Pridnestrovian conflict does not depend on Kishinev and Tiraspol. You agree that if the great powers come to an agreement one day, nobody will ask you?
— I do not agree. Through its independent development Pridnestrovie proved that we decide and if we want to live we will live. We are not sitting around idly and do not take offense that we are not a UN member yet. We develop bilateral relations, we interact with international organizations. You say that nothing depends on Kishinev and Tiraspol. But if tomorrow Kishinev will decide to recognize Pridnestrovie as an independent state and we will sign an agreement on friendship and cooperation, who can stop us? Who will not recognize this decision?
— Igor Dodon has a chance to become the President of Moldova and his party — the Socialist Party — is the most popular. The Pro-Russian politician and pro-Russian party are now head and shoulders above the rest in terms of electoral support. This force coming to power can create a new reality in which Russia could extend its influence not only on the pro-Russian Pridnestrovie, but also on Moldova, contributed to these territories once again become one.
— There are a lot of plans, projects, statements, different policies, they think differently. It is their right. The electoral process in Moldova is the electoral process in the neighboring country. We respect the Moldovan side and believe that they will figure out themselves who will lead the state and so on. It is now difficult to look far hypothetically, it seems early to draw conclusions.
— I think that just because one can get more than Pridnestrovie, in terms of influence, Russia has not recognized you thus far.
—This is a question to Russian politicians.
— But is the recognition of Pridnestrovie a topic or not?
—It shows through the prism of our relationship with Russia. You talked about some joint integration association (Moldova and Pridnestrovie — Kommersant), we call this phantom pain. I cannot understand how some of our partners, primarily European, are advocating for the restoration of the borders of the Moldavian SSR. There is no Soviet Union, no single party, no ideology. What brought us together, cemented the union republics, does not exist.
—Why only European? The Russian partners also proceed from this point.
—It does not matter. Many are articulating this position.
— Including Russia.
—26 years of Pridnestrovie is a serious period, which had its international developments, regional and internal processes. Not to take into account all these factors is impossible. These factors suggest that there is no alternative to recognition of the fait accompli of Pridnestrovie’s existence.
—If you cannot convince Russia, which is the most favorably disposed actor towards Pridnestrovie, of this recognition, how do you want to convince Europeans?
—If we have not convinced our partners still, it does not mean that we are not going to convince them later. This work is being done, I assure you. You know that since 2006 Pridnestrovie has been strategically striving for integration with Russia, including at the legislative level, we are engaged in the harmonization process.
— Explain about harmonization.
—This year, the President signed a decree on the implementation of will of the people (expressed in 2006 referendum — Kommersant).
—Russia is a federation and Pridnestrovie is not. How can we harmonize these two legal systems?
—I think there is some hidden catch in your question. We are not talking about tracing over the Russian legal system and implementing it here, no. We say that there are standards and regulations governing certain legal relations of citizens which can and should be implemented in Pridnestrovie. This is a reasonable harmonization of legislation adjusted to the situation in Pridnestrovie, to state systems and other elements. This is not an attempt to copy and, so to speak, to move Russia here.
—It seems to be a purely pre-electoral move on the eve of presidential elections in Pridnestrovie.
—The priority of our foreign policy is Eurasian integration. Therefore, harmonization of legislation is an objective that appeared in 2006, and a lot has been done to achieve it and much more is to be done. From my point of view as the Head of the Foreign Ministry, this is an important working mechanism that will allow me to perform tasks more effectively in the foreign policy area. That’s all. I need it, it is important to me.
—Has Pridnestrovie established some relations with the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) and LPR (Luhansk People’s Republic)? Your country, Abkhazia and South Ossetia recognized each other, but there is no activity, statements, comments regarding territorial units in the territory of Ukraine.
—For us, the priority is cooperation with Ukraine. Unfortunately, this interaction is complicated for objective reasons due to the internal conflict there.
—So it means you recognize the territorial integrity of Ukraine?
— Pridnestrovie does not make any statements on this situation. We are implementing the foreign policy concept, and one of its priorities is the cooperation with Ukraine. We have a set of issues, which are not directly related to the negotiation process. There are about 100 thousand Ukrainian citizens in Pridnestrovie. To ensure interests of these people, in our opinion, is our joint task. Ukraine should not be interested in worsening the lives of people taking decisions about, let’s say, the ban on access of excisable goods through the territory of Pridnestrovie. In my Ministry there are three persons who are prohibited to enter Ukraine for three years. There are also Ministers, Presidential Advisers, who were deported with related notes. Communication is difficult even at this level, and I think this is a situation that is outdated, it is necessary to return to a normal dialogue, and paying attention to some of our Ukrainian partners’ statements, I still think that Pridnestrovie tries to keep calm, take a balanced approach and we show the maximum peacefulness and openness to the dialogue.
—Would not the position of PMR’s Foreign Ministry on the recognition of Ukraine’s territorial integrity improve relations with Kiev?
—We did not worsen relations with the Ukrainian side. Nobody put preconditions for us to send some additional signals, make statements. When you’ve asked the question, you have reflected the situation: Pridnestrovie does not articulate any position, and so on, in the context of this conflict. And it is true, this is our position.
— I think it is important for Pridnestrovie to take some position or have any kind of position, because the word ‘pridnestroviesation’ is applied quite often to the self-proclaimed republics of Donbass.
—Pridnestrovie becomes extremely relevant in the rhetoric of our neighbors both in Moldova, and in Ukraine for well-known reasons. There are electoral processes, conflicts and so on. I think this term as well as references to Pridnestrovie in general is used in a scarcely correct way. Our position is clear – we implement the tasks determined by our leadership, state, will of the people and the foreign policy concept.
—Do you agree with an assumption that in the today’s Russia-West relations, amid tensions over Ukraine and Syria it is Pridnestrovie which may become a platform for positive interaction in terms of conflict settlement? Do you have such expectations?
— The settlement process has long become a platform for the interaction, important events...
—I mean the other thing. There is an opinion that Russia and the West can settle this conflict in contrast to other conflicts, where everything is not so good?
—Pridnestrovie is interested in settling the conflict through recognition of the sovereign and independent Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. I am confident that this will improve the situation both in the world and in comparison to other conflicts and I think that all international participants will welcome the peaceful fair settlement of the conflict.