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Ukraine to Begin Talks on NATO Membership Action Plan

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, shakes hands during a meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, July. 10, 2017.

Ukraine will begin discussions on a membership action plan with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced Monday.

Speaking at a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after a NATO-Ukraine Commission session in Kyiv, Poroshenko said at the moment Ukraine does not meet NATO accession criteria, but it has a three-year plan through 2020 and knows what is to be done.

The road map for Ukraine’s membership in NATO mean meeting targets on political, economic and defense reforms, with national plans submitted annually to measure progress.

"Ukraine has clearly defined its political future and future in the sphere of security," Poroshenko told reporters.

Stoltenberg said NATO would continue to support Ukraine on its path to closer relations with the alliance and assist the country in pursuing reforms and meeting NATO standards.

NATO rules also say aspiring members must "settle their international disputes by peaceful means," which means Ukraine would have to resolve the Donbass conflict with insurgent pro-Russian forces that has cost more than 10,000 lives since April 2014.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of supporting pro-Russian separatists in the country's restive east and smuggling weapons and troops to back them up, charges that Russia denies.

"Russia has maintained its aggressive actions against Ukraine, but NATO and NATO allies stand by Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said in his opening remarks of the NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting.

"NATO allies do not and will not recognize Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea," he also said.

Stoltenberg’s visit to Kyiv came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made his first visit to the city and urged Moscow to take the "first step" to ease the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.