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Powell Meets Yushchenko, Promises US Support for New Ukraine Government

Secretary of State Colin Powell told Ukraine's new President Viktor Yushchenko Sunday he can count on U.S. support as he steers that country toward closer ties with the Euro-Atlantic community. Mr. Powell attended Mr. Yushchenko's inauguration in his last overseas mission as secretary.

Mr. Powell met the new Ukrainian leader at his modest party headquarters in Kiev as hundreds of thousands of Mr. Yushchenko's orange-clad supporters streamed into the center of the capital to celebrate the inauguration.

The ceremonies climaxed a period of unprecedented political turmoil in Ukraine marked by the annulment of a November presidential run-off election marred by irregularities, and a narrow victory by Mr. Yushchenko in a court-ordered revote last month.

At his meeting with Mr. Powell, the new Ukrainian leader said his country's political breakthrough would not have happened without support from outside partners with shared values including the United States. But, Mr. Yushchenko stressed that Ukraine's new democracy is home-grown and independent.

"I'm particularly happy that I've lived to the time that the Ukrainian president is elected not in Moscow, not in Washington, but here in Ukraine," he said. "On the other hand however, the international assistance, the assistance and support from our partners, was very essential for enrooting the democracy in Ukraine."

Mr. Powell, for his part, said the United States wants to do everything it can to help the new Ukrainian government meet the high expectations of its people. Part of this, he said, will be encouraging and assisting in structural reforms of the Ukrainian economy to bring it closer to Western market standards.

"We had a good discussion on all of the bilateral issues between our two nations, but we also talked about broader issues of Euro-Atlantic integration, and how Ukraine will be moving to make sure that it become a valued member of the Euro-Atlantic community," said Mr. Powell.

Mr. Powell made no specific aid commitments here, but has indicated the Bush administration will assist Ukraine in seeking membership in the World Trade Organization.

Mr. Yushchenko, for his part, said he wants greater access for Ukrainian goods to U.S. markets, including an end to trade restrictions under the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik amendment.

In a telephone conversation Saturday, President Bush invited Mr. Yushchenko to visit Washington soon, and Mr. Powell said he was taking back to Washington an invitation for President Bush to visit Ukraine.

The secretary of state said the future of the Ukrainian troop commitment in Iraq figured in both the Bush-Yushchenko telephone conversation and in Sunday's talks here.

Mr. Powell has given no indication Mr. Yushchenko intends to reverse a campaign pledge to bring the 1,600 troops home. But he says the new Ukrainian leadership has said that whatever action it takes will be in full consultation with the United States.