Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 24, 1999


International Trade Center
Washington. D.C.

4:25 P.M. EDT

SECRETARY GENERAL SOLANA: Thank you. Let me welcome all of you for this first meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the summit level. This meeting is another reflection of our determination to build a new, undivided Europe; a Europe of partnership and cooperation.

More than anything else, this gathering stands as a commitment and testament to Ukraine. Many countries in Central and Eastern Europe faced a difficult transition when the Cold War came to an end. Ukraine was up to the challenge. Over the last decade, Ukraine has charted its course with vision and with courage. Today Ukraine is not only a member of the Euro-Atlantic community, it's a vital and respected member.

President Kuchma, who by now has become an old friend to many of us, deserves much of the credit for this historic success. His personal involvement was crucial for the rapid development of the NATO-Ukraine partnership. Today we take stock of this partnership and chart the way ahead.

The relationship between NATO and Ukraine is a real two-way street. NATO gains from it by having strong cooperation, partner for enhancing Europeans and Ukraine together. And Ukraine gains from it by finding in NATO a strong supporter of its independence and a far-reaching program of political, economic and defense reform. The -- partnership between NATO and Ukraine thus provides all of us with a new model of cooperation, a model worthy of the new Europe we are building together.

Let me now offer the floor to our host, President Clinton, for his welcoming remarks. President Clinton, the floor is yours.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General. Like all the NATO leaders, I am very pleased to welcome President Kuchma to this first summit meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.

When we launched this commission two years ago in Madrid, we hoped it would lead to a pragmatic and truly distinctive working partnership. Ukraine is a nation critical to our vision of an undivided, peaceful, democratic Europe.

The experience of the last two years has vindicated our hopes. Our Armed Forces are working together well in Bosnia. Ukraine played a vital role in Kosovo in the verification mission until it was driven out by the regime in Belgrade.

I appreciate President Kuchma's efforts to persuade Mr. Milosevic to end his campaign against the Kosovar Albanians so that the Kosovar people can come home with security and self-government.

Ukraine has also proposed an ambitious program of cooperation with NATO, and the Alliance has agreed to establish our very first Partnership for Peace training center in the Ukrainian town of Yavoriv. Our nations also will support Ukraine's efforts to reform its economy, deepen its democracy, and advance the rule of law -- all vital to Ukraine's security and the success of our partnership.

When we act to maintain peace and security in Europe we will strive to do so with our partners, including Ukraine. That is what we hope to do with Ukraine and other nations in Kosovo once peace is restored there.

We have taken many practical good steps toward realizing the promise of our partnership. But we should also not lose sight of the larger significance of what we are trying to do here, in light of the history of Ukraine and the history of Europe. For the people of Ukraine have felt the horrors of communism and fascism and famine. At different points in this century, the flags of five outside powers have flown over Ukrainian territory. Now Ukraine flies its own flag, and it is incumbent upon all of us to support Ukraine's transition and what its people have called their European choice.

Ukraine still faces large challenges -- political, economic, environmental. But now it is free to choose its destiny. And it has used that freedom to choose democracy and tolerance and free markets, integration, and the choice to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.

President Kuchma's presence here is a reminder that most of Europe is coming together today; most of Europe has rejected the idea that the quest for security is a zero-sum game in which one nation's gain is another's loss. So, most of all, I want to take this opportunity on behalf of the people of the United States to express my respect and gratitude to President Kuchma and the people of Ukraine for the choices they are making, and to ensure them that all of us and our partners will stand with them as they work for a better future.

Thank you very much.

SECRETARY GENERAL SOLANA: Thank you very much, Mr. Clinton. President Kuchma may now from the floor -- for any introductory remarks that you may want to make.

PRESIDENT KUCHMA: -- our American colleagues, and personally, Mr. President Clinton, for creating these conditions for successful work. I would like to express my appreciation that the relations between Ukraine and NATO, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, are proceeding, and evidence of this is our meeting here of our commission.

And there is a breaking moment in our relationship. What is happening in Kosovo has forced us to think about what we must do to change the architecture of Europe. I expect our discussion will give new impulse and new understanding of today's realities. We should set new priorities and a new impulse to the development of relations between Ukraine and NATO.

SECRETARY GENERAL SOLANA: Let me ask now the media to leave. Thank you very much for your cooperation. We're going to continue the meeting.

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