CIS peace force to go to Moldova

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The Independent Online
LEADERS of the Commonwealth of Independent States agreed yesterday to create an armed peace-keeping force to intervene in Moldova and other former Soviet republics ravaged by ethnic and political conflict.

The CIS leaders will, however, send troops to Moldova only if the republic issues a formal appeal for help. Mircea Snegur, the President of Moldova, has told Boris Yeltsin, the President of Russia, that the parliament, which meets today, will issue such an appeal in the next few days.

At the last CIS summit, on 15 May in Uzbekistan, six of the commonwealth leaders signed a collective security pact and agreed to consider forming a peace-keeping force. But they went substantially further at this summit in Moscow by ordering their defence and foreign ministers to draft an agreement forming the force within seven to 10 days.

Mr Yeltsin said: 'We will immediately create military peace- keeping forces that will be sent right away into the conflict zone in Moldova. That is the first place where blood is being shed and these forces will be sent.'

Hundreds of people have died in a battle for independence involving Russian and Ukrainian separatists in the Dnestr region of eastern Moldova. Repeated attempts at ceasefires have failed to stop the fighting.

Andrei Kozyrev, the Foreign Minister of Russia, said the international force, numbering between 2,000 and 10,000 soldiers, could be deployed by the end of July. He said it would draw troops from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and possibly Romania and Bulgaria, even though these two countries are not former Soviet republics or commonwealth members. Officials stressed that peace-keepers would be deployed only in republics whose governments formally request their presence.

Upon returning to Kishinev, capital of Moldova, last night Mr Snegur told reporters that the force would 'help implement the ceasefire agreement and enable the Moldovan parliament to discuss (the conflict) in calmer conditions.'

The Armenian President, Levon Ter Petrosian, whose republic is involved in a guerrilla war with neighbouring Azerbaijan, rejected the idea of the peacekeeping force saying that the CIS had no mechanism to resolve inter- ethnic conflicts. 'All these statements remain words,' he said.