Transdniestr peace talks to restart after freeze: official

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The parties in the dispute over Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniestr on Thursday agreed to relaunch negotiations for a permanent settlement after a half decade suspension, officials said.

The breakthrough in one of Europe's longest-running frozen conflicts was reached at closed-door talks in Moscow, the Moldovan government and OSCE said in statements. The Russian foreign ministry declined to comment.

"The government welcomes the decision and notes that it is the logical result of the efforts of all the process participants over the past two years," said Moldova's government in a statement released in Chisinau.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, whose country holds the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), described the development as a "a key step for progress in the Transdniestrian settlement process."

His envoy to the talks, Giedrius Cekuolis, said the parties had already been invited to Vilnius for the first official negotiations.

Transdniestr, a predominantly Russian-speaking region, unilaterally declared independence from Moldova in 1991 as the latter split from the Soviet Union.

It then engaged in armed conflict with Romanian-speaking Moldovans between 1991 and 1992, with the loss of some 700 lives. The region never achieved international recognition.

So-called "5+2" talks on the conflict - involving Moldova, Transdniestr, Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE, plus the European Union and United States as observers -- were suspended in 2006. Only informal talks had continued since then.

© 2011 AFP

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