Moscow - Russian President Dmirty Medvedev on Wednesday brokered peace talks in the 20-year-old frozen conflict between Moldova and its separatist region.
Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and Transdniestr leader Igor Smirnov signed a statement in Moscow pledging to continue direct talks "with the goal of invigorating the negotiating process for the political resolution of the Transdniestr conflict," news agency Interfax reported.
The meeting comes ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections in Moldova on April 5.
Transdniestr is a slim stretch of land along Moldova's border with Ukraine, its economy stagnating and unemployment rife since Russian-backed separatists gained de facto autonomy in a brief but bloody war in 1992.
Moscow has used its pull in the predominantly Russian-speaking region to restart peace talks last year after stalled for almost seven-years and raise its profile in international community.
Russia's reputation took a hit after its defence and recognition of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia in August.
That conflict also complicated Moscow's ties with other post-Soviet neighbors like Moldova and Azerbaijan, who face unresolved conflicts.
Despite promises to keep negotiations open, Smirnov said Transdniestr was as far as ever from a solution with the Moldovan leadership.
"Our positions in relations to Moldova's have moved no closer (to a resolution), and they could not because Moldova upholds the creation of a unitary state," the separatist leader was quoted as saying.
Russia and Moldova say they have moved nearer to a compromise in recent months, under which Moscow has asked Moldova to put aside ambitions to join NATO in exchange for concessions by Transdniestr, according to Russian newspaper reports.
But Smirnov has said he will accept only full independence.
Russian-brokered talks Wednesday should be expanded in so-called 5+2 negotiations including the Ukraine, the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), the European Union and United States.
Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Wednesday that Medvedev had called the talks to air Moscow frustration with Smirnov's intransigence.
The paper cited a senior presidential aide as saying, the Kremlin "had low expectations for today's meeting."
Medvedev instead aimed "to give Smirnov to understand that in Moscow nobody supports what he is doing," the anonymous source was quoted as saying. (dpa)