Ukraine, Belarus 'on way to democracy' - Yanukovych


Ukraine and Belarus are moving towards becoming fully democratic states and are interested in developing regional cooperation, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said on Thursday.

"Both our countries are on the way to democracy and it is important that the people feel this," Yanukovych told his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko during his official visit to Minsk.

The two leaders discussed a broad range of issues, including trade and economic relations and cross-border cooperation. The presidents are expected to sign a intergovernmental agreements on cultural ties, tourism and border protection.

In early April, the Belarusian parliament ratified an agreement on the demarcation of the border between the former Soviet neighbors, putting an end to a long-lasting dispute between Kiev and Minsk over the issue.

The agreement was signed in 1997, but the Belarusian parliament delayed its ratification, demanding Ukraine first pay off debts to Belarus dating back to the middle of the 1990s.

The issue was settled when Lukashenko visited Kiev in November last year.

Yanukovych thanked his Belarusian counterpart for the ratification of the agreement. "The settlement of this issue opens new opportunities of attracting investment," he said.

In 2008, Ukraine ranked second among CIS trading partners of Belarus, with bilateral trade estimated at $5 billion. However, in 2009 Ukrainian-Belarusian trade plunged 39%, year-on-year, to $3 billion. In January-February the countries' bilateral trade grew 25%, year-on-year, to $500 million.

The Ukrainian leader said he was ready to meet with Lukashenko on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border in the near future to discuss regional cooperation.

The presidents also discussed cooperation in international organizations. Ukraine will begin its chairmanship in the Council of Europe in 2011.

"This opens new opportunities for Belarus," Yanukovych said, adding that he was sure Belarus would soon join the continent's premier human rights body.

MINSK, April 29 (RIA Novosti)


Partners: Social Network