Which country cuts Ukraine in two?  The answer is Moldova, which I visited recently to discuss Ukrainian-Moldovan relations.  The Moldovan village of Palanca interrupts Odessa oblast in such a way as to make it impossible to drive from one bit of Ukraine to the other without crossing Moldovan territory.  Further to the north is the region of Transnistria, a sliver of Moldova which has sought to break away from the rest of the country.  In the south, Moldova has only a 400m stretch of river frontage of the River Danube on which to site its international port.  All this makes the country a case study in the human and political legacy of the intra-Soviet borders drawn up by Stalin at the end of the Second World War.

This all matters because Transnistria lies between Ukraine and the rest of Moldova.  Ukraine is therefore likely to be involved in any eventual settlement of the long-running territorial dispute.  In recent years, relations between Ukraine and Moldova have tended to focus on several small but complex territorial issues, including at Palanca.  All have come close to settlement on several occasions; but seem likely to need a further injection of political will to resolve.  Meanwhile Moldova is going full steam ahead in its efforts to accelerate integration with the European Union and is talking ambitiously about becoming the forerunner amongst CIS states in pursuing its European agenda.

Given that a bit of healthy competition is usually a good thing, I wish both Moldova and Ukraine the best of luck in pursuing the path of European integration as rapidly as possible.  It would also be good to see progress in resolving the bilateral border issues between the two countries.  Some good initiatives have been launched recently, including demarcation of the Transnistrian sector of the Ukraine-Moldova border and new direct train services from Chisinau to Odessa running through Transnistria.  I hope these signs of the gains which can be achieved by the two countries working together will help lead to progress on resolving the bilateral border issues.  If that in turn leads to Ukraine playing the kind of role in helping to settle the bigger issue of Transnistria which its size and geographical location suggests it could, so much the better.

Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine

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