August 12, 2008 / 7:08 PM / 11 years ago

Moldovan separatists break off talks over Georgia

By Dmitry Chubashenko

CHISINAU, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Leaders of Moldova’s separatist Transdniestria region said on Tuesday they would break off all contacts with the ex-Soviet state’s central government until it denounced Georgian "aggression" in South Ossetia.

Transdniestria’s Russian-speaking leaders split from Moldova in 1990 in Soviet times on the grounds that the republic’s Romanian-speaking majority would join neighbouring Romania.

That never happened — but the two sides fought a brief war in 1992 and a resolution has yet to be found. Transdniestria’s leader met Moldova’s president in April for the first time since 2001, but the talks produced few results.

"Transdniestria hereby declares a moratorium on contacts (with Moldova) until the Moldovan side issues a decisive, unconditional denunciation of Georgia’s aggression," the separatist region’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It accused Moldova of behaving like Georgia by trying to "change the format of talks, reduce Russia’s role to a minimum and create conditions for the use of force to solve the conflict".

Moldova’s Foreign Ministry had earlier endorsed a European Union statement noting the "worsening situation in South Ossetia". Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, on holiday, has yet to comment on events in Georgia.

Georgia sent troops into South Ossetia last week to try to retake the territory, but Russia, which backs the separatists, responded with a military incursion into Georgia proper.

A six-point peace plan for South Ossetia proposed by the EU and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe called for troops to withdraw to pre-conflict areas and a pledge to renounce the use of force.

Transdniestria, like the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, broke away as the Soviet Union was near to collapse. None of the three has international recognition.

Like Georgia, Moldova proposes broad autonomy for its rebel region, but Transdniestria’s leaders say they will settle for nothing less than independence.

The region’s voters have overwhelmingly backed independence in a referendum, as well as the idea of joining Russia one day. (Writing by Ron Popeski, editing by Meg Clothier)

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