October 8, 2008

Ukrainian Defence Minister Urges Politicians to Formulate Common Stance on NATO

Text of report by Interfax-Ukraine news agency

Ohrid (Macedonia), 8 October: Ukrainian Defence Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov believes that Ukrainian politicians should formulate a common position on NATO.

He was speaking to reporters following a meeting with his US counterpart, Robert Gates, in Ohrid, Macedonia, today.

"The Ukrainian population has no doubts about the economic component [of NATO entry] and that Ukraine is inclined towards European and Euro-Atlantic integration. However, there is also a political component and our politicians should work much on this to formulate a common position," he said.

Asked how Ukraine would continue its movement to NATO if the incumbent prime minister [Yuliya Tymoshenko] was seeking closer ties with Russia, Yekhanurov said: "I am very surprised you already know the Ukrainian prime minister's position. We do not know it yet."

Yekhanurov said that most cabinet members supported Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic aspirations. He added that there was serious political debate in Ukraine on its NATO entry and that the most important thing was how many Ukrainians backed this step. He said that the latest poll showed that 31 per cent of the population supported Ukraine's accession to NATO and 40 per cent were uncertain about how to answer this question. "I think there is a serious field for work," he said.

Yekhanurov also said that the Defence Ministry would spare no effort to ensure that cooperation in the area of military transportation should dominate Ukraine's cooperation with NATO. He expressed hope it would develop actively in the future.

Originally published by Interfax-Ukraine news agency, Kiev, in Russian 0802 8 Oct 08.

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