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Moldova to sign EU association agreement on June 27

(MOSCOW) - European Union President Herman Van Rompuy Tuesday invited Moldova to sign a key economic and political deal with the EU on June 27, warning against external pressure on the country in remarks aimed at Moscow.

Van Rompuy, who is visiting the country in the midst of the crisis in Ukraine, said Chisinau will be able to sign the Association Agreement next month, in a move that will likely infuriate Russia.

"I look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Leanca in Brussels on 27 June to sign our joint Association Agreement," he said in a statement after meeting Moldova's leader Iurie Leanca in Chisinau.

"We reject any external pressure and firmly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, within internationally recognised borders," Van Rompuy said.

Moldova initialled an association agreement with the European bloc in November, angering Moscow, which has backed its Russian-speaking breakaway region of Transdniestr.

In a separate statement in Bucharest, Romanian President Traian Basescu stressed that Moldova is facing "consistent security risks" because of Russia.

He urged Brussels to speed up the signing of the agreement, saying May 27 would be a better option to ensure EU states ratify the deal before the summer.

"It would be extremely important to sign in May in order for the parliaments of Moldova, Romania, maybe Poland and the Baltic States to ratify this agreement before the summer holidays," Basescu told reporters.

He warned further destabilizations in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa could lead to Russia extending its influence in Moldova.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin enraged Chisinau over the weekend by delivering boxes of petitions to Moscow asking Russia to recognise the Transdniestr region as independent.

Transdniestr is a strip of land wedged between the Dniestr river and the border with Ukraine. It declared independence from Moldova in 1990 but is not recognised by any state.

Russian officials have hinted they could deploy more (they have already about 1,500 soldiers there) troops there to protect Russian speakers if the need arises, echoing comments made by the Kremlin ahead of Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March.

"Solving the protracted conflict of Transnistria would constitute a major step in building trust, stability and prosperity throughout the whole region," Van Rompuy said during his visit to Moldova, at the same time as NATO deputy chief Alexander Vershbow.

EU relations with Moldova

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