World Bulletin / News Desk
NATO will open a liaison office in Moldova, boosting its commitment to the former Soviet satellite which elected a pro-Russian president only last month, alliance head Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday.
Socialist Party leader Igor Dodon won polls billed as an East-West tug of war over the future of the tiny country of 3.5 million people wedged between Romania and Ukraine.
The vote took place with thousands of Russian troops still based in the Russian-speaking region of Transdniester, which broke away in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Stoltenberg said the liaison office in Chisinau was an important political and practical step for NATO to bolster cooperation and better support the government's reform efforts.
"This is a small civilian office, not a military base," he said after talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels with Moldovan Prime Minister Pavel Filip.
Without mentioning Russia, Stoltenberg said the NATO allies continued to support Moldova's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"We stand by the right of all countries to make their own foreign policy and security choices (and) ... we respect Moldova's neutrality," he said.
Asked about Dodon's election and his pro-Moscow stance, Filip said the government hoped "to be able to govern in the interest of all citizens of Moldova."
"The agreement to open the liaison office we did with the utmost certainty that the office will be opened, that parliament will ratify it and that the president will promulgate it," he said.
Russia bitterly opposes Moldova's efforts to boost ties with NATO and the European Union and Dodon's election victory, coinciding with a similar poll result in EU member Bulgaria, have stoked concerns Moscow may be regaining influence in its Soviet-era backyard.
afpLast Mod: 29 Kasım 2016, 21:35