Office of the Press Secretary

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 welcomeall of you for this first meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission atthe summit level. This meeting is another reflection of ourdetermination to build a new, undivided Europe; a Europe ofpartnership and cooperation.

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

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

The relationship between NATO and Ukraine is a realtwo-way street. NATO gains from it by having strong cooperation,partner for enhancing Europeans and Ukraine together. And Ukrainegains from it by finding in NATO a strong supporter of itsindependence and a far-reaching program of political, economic anddefense reform. The -- partnership between NATO and Ukraine thusprovides all of us with a new model of cooperation, a model worthy ofthe new Europe we are building together.

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

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. SecretaryGeneral. Like all the NATO leaders, I am very pleased to welcomePresident Kuchma to this first summit meeting of the NATO-UkraineCommission.

When we launched this commission two years ago inMadrid, we hoped it would lead to a pragmatic and truly distinctiveworking partnership. Ukraine is a nation critical to our vision ofan undivided, peaceful, democratic Europe.

The experience of the last two years has vindicated ourhopes. Our Armed Forces are working together well in Bosnia.Ukraine played a vital role in Kosovo in the verification missionuntil 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 thatthe Kosovar people can come home with security and self-government.

Ukraine has also proposed an ambitious program ofcooperation with NATO, and the Alliance has agreed to establish ourvery first Partnership for Peace training center in the Ukrainiantown of Yavoriv. Our nations also will support Ukraine's efforts toreform its economy, deepen its democracy, and advance the rule of law-- all vital to Ukraine's security and the success of ourpartnership.

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

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

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

Thank you very much.

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

PRESIDENT KUCHMA: -- our American colleagues, andpersonally, Mr. President Clinton, for creating these conditions forsuccessful work. I would like to express my appreciation that therelations between Ukraine and NATO, which is celebrating its 50thanniversary, are proceeding, and evidence of this is our meeting hereof our commission.

And there is a breaking moment in our relationship.What is happening in Kosovo has forced us to think about what we mustdo to change the architecture of Europe. I expect our discussionwill give new impulse and new understanding of today's realities. Weshould set new priorities and a new impulse to the development ofrelations between Ukraine and NATO.

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

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