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US, Ukrainian Foreign Ministers Press Availability Transcript

Source: Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

14 April 2000
Transcript: U.S., Ukrainian Foreign Ministers Press Availability (Economic reform, Kharkiv Initiative, KFOR/peacekeeping, trafficking, START II, ABM Treaty, Chernobyl) (2,740)

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk held a press availability in Kiev, Ukraine April 14.

Following is the State Department transcript of the press availability:

(begin transcript)

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk: Press Availability

Rus Hotel
Kiev, Ukraine
April 14, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

Foreign Minister Tarasyuk [unofficial translation]: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am glad to have this opportunity to welcome you on the occasion of the visit by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. This is the Secretary's second visit to Ukraine. The first one, as you remember, took place in March 1998.

During this visit, the key event in the schedule of the Secretary's stay in Ukraine was her meeting with the President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, which has just been completed. This was a very important meeting both in terms of its length and in terms of its contents. The Secretary also had a meeting with Prime Minister Victor Yushchenko. And negotiations between the two delegations took place in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The visit itself, the atmosphere that surrounded this visit, the negotiations and their content confirm that a strategic partnership exists between Ukraine and the United States.

I will just list the topics that were on the agenda of our meetings: specifically, the Secretary's meetings with the President, with the Prime Minister, and in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They included the issue of a future visit to Ukraine by the President of the United States. Madeleine Albright received President Kuchma's letter to President Clinton on Ukraine's proposal to hold a UN Security Council summit. The issue of the next session of the Ukrainian-American Binational Commission was discussed, the issue of cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, the long-term legislative basis for bilateral relations. Questions were discussed such as the status of a normal trade partner.

The Kharkiv Initiative, compensation for the victims of Nazism, cooperation in Kosovo, and in particular, Ukraine's participation in KFOR and U.S. assistance. We discussed the issue of cooperation in the United Nations Security Council, the issue of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, OSCE, the World Trade Organization, Ukraine's cooperation with the European Union, reform of the energy sector, and, in this context, the Ukrainian route for Caspian oil.

Generally, one can say that in every one of those topics we achieved mutual understanding. The strategic partnership between Ukraine and the U.S. is confirmed. The Secretary of State expressed support for the course of reforms conducted by the President and the government of our country. She showed understanding for the unique situation Ukraine currently finds itself in.

In general, I can state without exaggeration that the visit was successful.

Secretary Albright: Thank you very much. Dobriy vechir and I want to begin by thanking you, Mr. Foreign Minister, for your hospitality and for joining me in what has been a very productive series of meetings today.

On every visit to this city, previously as a private citizen and also on the visit that the Foreign Minister spoke about, I am reminded always that this is one of the loveliest capitals in Europe. "Vesna v Kiyive prikrasna." [Springtime in Kiev is beautiful.]

It's true that spring is nature's season of renewal. And from what I heard today, this is shaping up as a season of renewal in Ukraine's political life, as well.

In last winter's presidential elections, the Ukrainian people made it clear that they want to move forward with essential reforms, and not slide backward towards a Communist past.

And President Kuchma and Prime Minister Yushchenko clearly recognize that now is the time to attack old problems such as energy reform with a new vigor.

The United States strongly supports the economic reform policies of President Kuchma and the Prime Minister. The success of reform here is crucial for Ukraine's ability to create a prosperous future for its people.

We talked today about the next steps in the reform process, and we look toward continuing that discussion when Prime Minister Yushchenko visits Washington next month.

Internationally, Ukraine has already proven the worth of its distinctive partnership with NATO, and so I am pleased to announce that the United States, with the support of our allies in Europe, will help fund Ukraine's continued participation in KFOR as part of the Polish-Ukrainian peacekeeping battalion.

The Ukrainian government has also been an essential partner in the effort to halt the trafficking of women and children, and we look forward to a conference that our two governments plan to co-host on trafficking in June here in Kiev. We will be bringing together law enforcement officials and NGOs from several countries to increase cooperation in prosecuting trafficking cases and protecting the victims.

Ukraine is also moving closer toward a goal shared by the people of Ukraine, Europe and America -- and that is closing Chernobyl this year. The United States and our G-7 partners will continue to support reforms needed to help make that happen.

Chernobyl was a dark stain in the bleak history of the Soviet era.

But even darker crimes were perpetrated under Stalin, and earlier today I laid a wreath at the Memorial to the Victims of the Great Famine.

This was for me an emotional moment. My family was fortunate enough to escape Communism. Millions of Ukrainian children, women and men were not so lucky, and I know from talking to the Foreign Minister, members of his own family were tragically affected by this. These people died in the great forced famine -- not because of anything they had done, or even because there was no food, but simply because they were in the way.

No one who visits such a memorial can forget it. And no one who considers its meaning can fail to understand why the Ukrainian people have made it clear that they will never go back to a system in which the state has every freedom and the people have none.

Ukraine's difficult past ensures that the way ahead will not be easy. But the United States will help Ukraine's reformers in every way. And because America wants for Ukraine what Ukraine wants for itself: a stable, prosperous, independent and democratic future, firmly anchored in Euro-Atlantic institutions. We have had excellent meetings as the Foreign Minister described. I think our time has been very well spent and I am very glad to have been here again.

My good friend, Boris, thank you.

Question: I have a question to Minister Tarasyuk. Can we expect intensification of the American activities in Kharkiv Initiative as a result of today's discussion of this issue? And, if possible, your comment on ratification of the ABM and START treaties by the Russian Duma today.

Foreign Minister Tarasyuk [unofficial translation]: Thank you. Concerning the Kharkiv Initiative. This initiative was a subject of our discussion. In the course of this discussion, we agreed to devote more attention from both sides to the realization of this initiative -- from the Department of State and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In this connection, the Secretary and I appointed the officers responsible for the realization of the Kharkiv Initiative.

As to the ratification by the Russian State Duma of the START II treaty, all of us here in Ukraine welcome this move of the Russian State Duma. This is a very important step that will undoubtedly, as a result of implementation of this treaty's provisions, lead to a more secure world and to the reduction of the nuclear threat.

Question: Could Secretary Albright also comment on the ratification of START by the Russian Duma?

Secretary Albright: I will, I will, I will. Let me just say that since the inception of the Kharkiv Initiative in 1998, we have undertaken a number of activities to foster diversified economic development and promote trade and investment in the region and they include the appointment of a senior American advisor who is now in Kharkiv to trade in energy-related conferences and the delivery of approximately $18 million in medicines and medical equipment to hospitals in the region. There are also ongoing programs for training and mentoring entrepreneurs in the region, as well as efforts to assist in small and medium enterprise development, and a variety of educational exchange programs also are contributing to fulfilling some of the Initiative. But I think that the Kharkiv Initiative was just one of the benefits Ukraine received from foregoing nuclear cooperation with Iran. The others were the 123 agreement on nuclear cooperation, the first we signed with a former Soviet republic, a $40 million nuclear fuel qualification program which will allow Ukraine to diversify its sources for nuclear fuel, increased funding totaling to date $7 million for Ukrainian scientists through the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine, and membership in the missile technology control regime, a U.S.-Ukraine rocket technology safeguard agreement, and a memorandum of understanding on space cooperation. So there have been benefits, but as the Foreign Minister said, we are going to work more intensively on this, and Ambassador Pifer will be working with an individual named by the Foreign Ministry.

On the Duma ratification. I understand that we haven't seen some of the amendments that have come along with it but I do think that it is a very important step and it should allow for an intensification of our discussions with the Russians and Foreign Minister Ivanov will be coming to Washington next month and we will be able to confer and talk further on how to intensify those arms control discussions.

Question: Madam Secretary, you alluded to the amendment which has been included to the START II vote in Moscow, and one of them was that the Russian side can now withdraw from START if the United States withdraws from the ABM treaty and President-Elect Putin also said that the ball was now firmly in the U.S. court. How do you assess the prospect for dialogue given those facts.

Secretary Albright: Well, first of all, I think we have made very clear the importance of the ABM treaty. That is something we believe and our discussions with the Russians have been not about withdrawing but about adjusting the treaty which has been done before in order to accommodate the possibility, because there has been no decision made on deployment on NMD, so I think that when I was in Russia I spoke about the importance of the ABM treaty with then acting President Putin myself and it is always a part of our discussion. And as I said maybe the ball is going back and forth and Foreign Minister Ivanov and I will hit it back and forth when he comes.

Question: Mrs. Albright, when you said the commitment of President Kuchma to shut down Chernobyl by the end of the year, and will Washington give money for Rivne and Khmelnytsky to replace Chernobyl, and definitely will the United States support Ukraine in the talks with the IMF? Thank you.

Secretary Albright: We did talk about Chernobyl and President Kuchma reaffirmed that it would be closed which I consider very important and the United States and other countries will obviously be helpful. I think it would be very useful to have a date for when that would be done, but President Kuchma said that he had appointed a commission that is working with the Prime Minister on this subject and that that commission will help to fix the date. We obviously did talk about the IMF and we strongly support Ukraine's work with the IMF. The Central Bank audit is very important and it has been noted by them and by us that there is excellent cooperation and that transparency is the word of the day and a very important concept that is evident. We believe that robust economic reforms are really a key to moving this whole process forward and they need to take place in the areas of budget, tax, privatization, agriculture, and the energy sector. I was very impressed by President Kuchma's dedication to this process and his desire to move the reform process forward and by the work that the Prime Minister is undertaking. The Rada also must play a constructive role -- has already and needs to do more -- and I think the stronger the reform program, the stronger will our support be for the work that is going on here and the IMF.

Question: Madame Secretary, one more clarification question concerning Chernobyl and your [inaudible] plan. I know that in the past Ukrainian officials have made it clear that they would only be able to close the plant if significant Western financial assistance is provided to build two replacement nuclear reactors. Have you specifically discussed this prospect and mainly the U.S. plan if such plans exist to finance the construction?

Secretary Albright: We have made it quite clear that we will help substantially as will other members of the G-7 because we consider this important, but it is essential for a date to be fixed because we're hoping that there will be pledging conferences. I think everybody understands this is a very important responsibility that we all share and we are prepared to help and we did talk about it and I was heartened by the fact that President Kuchma reaffirmed the closing and that he has named a group commission to study exactly the date and to have it done. I think I made quite clear that it would be very useful to have a date set.

Question: Mrs. Albright, is there a connection of your visit and the future visit of President Putin in Kiev?

Secretary Albright: No.

Question: How do you assess the situation of freedom of expression in Ukraine after the recent incident with an American journalist not being admitted into the country?

Secretary Albright: Let me say that we were obviously concerned about that case and glad that it has been resolved but I did mention both to the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister the importance of freedom of the press and the fact that it is central to the functioning of a democratic society.

Question: I have a question to Madame Albright and another one for Mr. Tarasyuk.

Mrs. Albright, your first comment on the ratification of START by the Russian Duma was more emotional than what you have just said. What is the cause for this caution on your part? You had called it a historic step, you congratulated the Russian people, but now you have been more cautious. What is the reason? And a question to Mr. Tarasyuk. What was concretely discussed when you talked about American-Ukrainian cooperation in the United Nations Security Council? What will be the particular steps in such cooperation?

Secretary Albright: I in no way meant to be less emotional or moved or finding it historic. I think that we have waited a long time for the Duma to ratify START II. It is an important step. I think the only issue for all of us is to study the amendments that came along with it. But, I do think that we have waited a long time and the ratification is an important step in what is I think the central activity of our time, which is trying to deal with the remnants of the Cold War and dealing with the very important subject of lowering numbers in nuclear arms and the general discussion that we have to have on nuclear arms reduction across the board.

Foreign Minister Tarasyuk [unofficial translation]: With Secretary Madeleine Albright we talked about cooperation in the United Nations Security Council. In particular, such issues were discussed as the Ukrainian initiative to hold a UNSC summit in the framework of the Millenium Summit that will take place in September this year in New York. We also discussed the issue of reform of the UNSC. We exchanged views on the important and sensitive matter of enforcing UN sanctions. In this context, we discussed our cooperation in Kosovo, as well as fulfillment in this context of the UNSC resolution 1243.

(end transcript)

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