Moldova president, separatist head meet:no progress
Transdniestria broke away from Moldova in Soviet times on fears that the republic's leaders could eventually opt to join their ethnic kin to the west in Romania.
The president of Moldova and the leader of its separatist Transdniestria region held fresh talks on Wednesday but made no progress in resolving the 18-year-old conflict dividing the ex-Soviet state.
Transdniestria broke away from Moldova in Soviet times on fears that the republic's leaders could eventually opt to join their ethnic kin to the west in Romania. That never happened, but the two sides fought a brief war in 1992 and were separated by Russian troops who remain despite promising to leave.
Diplomacy has since failed to end the rebellion in Moldova, a country of 4 million between Romania and Ukraine.
Transdniestrian leader Igor Smirnov told Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin as the talks got under way: "Transdniestria does not want to be part of Moldova."
Voronin replied: "Then what is there to talk about?"
After 40 minutes of exchanges with journalists present, the leaders spent a further hour behind closed doors.
Smirnov later said the two men would meet again next March. Voronin said further discussions would take place along with representatives of Russia. Most talks on Moldova also involve the European Union, Ukraine, the United States and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Wednesday's meeting was the second this year between the two men after seven years marked by little dialogue and difficult attempts at conciliation.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met each leader separately after Moscow's brief war in August with Georgia and a senior Russian official last month offered to mediate a peace deal.
In their latest exchanges, both sides gave little ground.
Smirnov told the Moldovan president that Transdniestria, a sliver of land populated mainly by Russian-speakers, rejected Moldova's calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops.
He cited referendums with large majorities upholding independence and calling for eventual unification with Russia.
"Our main objective is to restore Moldova's territorial integrity," Voronin told him.
"That may be your aim," shot back the separatist leader. "But who told you that Transdniestria wants to join you?"
Reuters Last Mod: 24 Aralık 2008, 21:48