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Moldova and Trans-Dniester agree to more conflict resolution talks at beginning of next year
VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) ' The first talks in nearly six years between Moldova and the pro-Moscow separatist region of Trans-Dniester concluded in Lithuania Thursday with an agreement for more meetings at the beginning of next year.
Lithuania's Foreign Minister Audronis Azubalis said the negotiations "laid solid ground for future work on promoting conflict resolution."
Other officials declined to comment on the talks, which were primarily aimed at setting up a framework for future negotiations.
Trans-Dniester broke away from Moldova in 1990 and fought a war with Moldovan forces in 1992 that left 1,500 people dead. The region ' mainly populated by Ukrainians and Russians ' is not recognized internationally but has its own legal and administrative system. It has been led by Igor Smirnov for 20 years.
The two conflicting sides sat around the negotiation table for the first time in nearly six years during the two-day talks in Vilnius ' mediated by Russia, the Ukraine, the European Union, the United States, and the Organizations for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Lithuania is presently the head of the OSCE's rotating chairmanship.
"The discussion of principles and procedures for the conduct of the negotiation is a stepping stone to achieving further tangible progress on the Trans-Dniester settlement," Azubalis said.
"Maintaining the positive momentum and continuing regular official meetings is essential now to advance the comprehensive resolution of the conflict ' the goal that we all share," he added.
Participants agreed the next official meeting, dubbed "The Permanent Conference on Political Issues in the Framework of the Negotiating Process for Trans-Dniester Settlement," will take place in February 2012 in Ireland.