- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2005

KIEV — President Viktor Yushchenko, who will host a pivotal meeting with his Russian counterpart this weekend, is promising “serious changes” in his government’s foreign policy, particularly regarding the European Union and Ukraine’s strategic partners — Russia, Poland and the United States.

“Today, a new leader and a new command want to announce that never again will they profess byzantine politics to their strategic partners,” Mr. Yushchenko, who was inaugurated in January, said in a little-noticed statement posted on his Ukrainian-language Web site (ww2.yuschenko.com.ua) on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s foreign policy “won’t be geared against someone, but exclusively for the realization of Ukraine’s interests,” said the statement, which did not spell out details of the proposed changes.

“We want to activate our relations with our strategic partners and to propel them to a new level,” Mr. Yushchenko added.

Mr. Yushchenko, who will meet with President Bush in Washington early next month, said he plans to discuss strengthening political, trade and economic relations with the United States.

Acknowledging that the relationship between the two countries has been marked by uneven periods, Mr. Yushchenko said he hopes to sign bilateral documents that “will pave the way for Ukraine’s accession” to the World Trade Organization.

The Ukrainian president said he also hopes to review several “regulatory and procedural moments which will make easier the presence of Ukraine on the American market.”

Kiev has long sought relief from the Jackson-Vanick amendment, which imposed trade restrictions on the Soviet Union in 1974 because of its treatment of Soviet Jews. As a former Soviet republic, Ukraine remains subject to the sanctions.

Mr. Yushchenko also said his government would not change its announced plan to withdraw its troops from Iraq — a process that has already begun — although all actions “will be agreed with our partners.”

It was not clear how the Ukrainian leader’s policy changes would affect relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to sign several agreements tomorrow when he visits Kiev for the first time since the Orange Revolution swept Mr. Yushchenko to power.

Relations between Moscow and Kiev have been uncomfortable since Mr. Putin openly backed Mr. Yushchenko’s opponent in the presidential race, twice traveling to Ukraine during the campaign.

But Mr. Putin has kept a low profile here since Mr. Yushchenko’s victory and hosted the Ukrainian leader in Moscow the day after his inauguration. Both have an interest in reaching accommodation on such issues as oil and gas issues, free trade and cooperation in the high-tech sector.

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