NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged Russia on Thursday to comply with its pledge to withdraw its troops and weapons from Moldova.
De Hoop Scheffer was referring to a pledge Russia made at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit in Istanbul in 1999 to withdraw from the separatist region of Trans-Dniester in eastern Moldova.
"I sincerely hope on the basis on the principles we all agreed upon (in Istanbul) ... a solution can be found," the NATO chief said during a brief visit to Moldova.
Trans-Dniester broke away in 1992 after a bloody war with Moldova that left more than 1,500 people dead. Russia maintains about 1,500 troops and an unknown amount of light weapons in Trans-Dniester, despite calls by the United States and the European Union to respect the 1999 pledge to withdraw them.
Russian officials say Trans-Dniester is strategically important for Russia and that withdrawing the troops would cause instability.
In August, the Kremlin warned Moldova that aggression against Trans-Dniester could provoke a Russian military response.
De Hoop Scheffer met Thursday with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and told him that NATO respected Moldova's neutrality. He also met with Defense Minister Vitalie Vrabie and Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan.
Moldova, located between NATO member Romania and Ukraine, is a member of the alliance's partnership for peace program but has not sought NATO membership.
source: International Herald Tribune