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Steinmeier, Fabius in Moldova, Georgia charm offensive

The German and French foreign ministers, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Laurent Fabius are in Moldova to promote an EU association agreement. They will also travel to Georgia to strengthen ties.

Steinmeier and Fabius assured Chisinau that the EU would be ready to sign an association agreement with the ex-Soviet republic this summer. The agreement would be similar to the one Ukraine decided not to ratify last year, triggering mass protests against then-president Viktor Yanukovych.

"The Republic of Moldova can rely on its partnership with Europe," Steinmeier said in the Moldovan capital on Wednesday. At the same time, the two ministers stressed that the partnership with the EU was not directed against Russia.

"We're not about to enter into a geostrategic game or a confrontation between the West and the East, between the EU and Russia," Steinmeier added.

But Fabius and Steinmeier were vaguer when asked about Moldova's prospects of joining the European Union. Steinmeier said Chisinau had to decide which way it wants to go.

Steinmeier was hinting at Moldova's breakaway region of Trans-Dniester, which declared independence in 1992 following a civil war, but which has not been recognized internationally. The region is pro-Russian, with 1,500 Russian soldiers stationed there.

Russia's annexation of Crimea has stoked worries in Chisinau that Russia could eye a similar move in Trans-Dniester. Steinmeier said Germany and France "take very seriously the deep anxiety" with which their eastern partners view the situation in Ukraine and that with "each day that passes...(it) makes a solution harder and harder to reach."

Fabius and Steinmeier will travel to Georgia next, where they will also promote closer EU ties and an association agreement with the bloc.

ng/rc (dpa, AP, AFP)

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