Peres with Ukrainian President Yanukovych 311.
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, in Israel for a reciprocal state visit,
received a warm welcome on Thursday from President Shimon Peres.
Yanukovych has been to Israel before, Peres termed the visit “historic” in that
was the first by a Ukrainian president.
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In addition to the military band
and honor guard, a long line of dignitaries greeted the Ukrainian leader,
including government ministers, representatives of various denominations and
senior personnel from the defense and security establishment.
visited Ukraine twice in the past year – first in November 2010 and again this
past September, when he was the keynote speaker at the Eighth Yalta European
In greeting the visiting president – who was accompanied
by a large ministerial entourage and an even larger media delegation – Peres did
not overlook the dark chapters in Ukraine’s long history with the Jewish people.
However, he preferred to look to the future, hailing Yanukovych as a
democratically elected president who was writing a new chapter in his country’s
history and its relations with Israel.
Taking a retrospective look at
Ukraine, Peres said it had gone from dictatorship to democracy and was on the
path to evolving from a great agricultural country to a great modern, scientific
and technological country with achievements that would enable it to join the
He put great emphasis on the importance of a flourishing
economy. Democracy, he told his guest, means more than the right to vote. “It
also means the right to exist.”
Peres expressed confidence that
Yanukovych’s visit would lead to greater mutual understanding and would enhance
scientific and technological ties, as well as efforts for peace in the
He credited the Ukrainian leader with building a bridge of
cooperation between Russia and Europe.
Moving on to regional issues,
Peres said the problem in the Middle East was not with politics, but with
hunger, poverty and rejection.
Yanukovych said he was pleased to be back
in the Holy Land and the ancient city of Jerusalem. He noted that Ukraine had
been among the nations that paved the way for the establishment of the State of
Israel when it voted in favor of the Palestine partition in November 1947 at the
UN, and he expressed appreciation for Israel having been one of the first
countries to recognize Ukraine after it gained independence in
Since then, he said, a dynamic bilateral dialogue has developed,
and economic trade, scientific and cultural ties between the two countries have
The implementation of visafree travel between the two
countries has helped to increase two-way tourism and mutual understanding at
both the government and the people- to-people level, he added.
pleased to see the improvement in economic ties, and was hopeful that these
would be expanded through the signing of a Free Trade Agreement during his
visit. Bilateral agreements in the fields of diplomacy, infrastructure and
medicine were signed in the presence of the two leaders.
he looked forward to greater cooperation in other areas as a result of his
In addition to meetings with Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Yanukovych also met with Greek
Patriarch Theophilus III in the Old City.
From the President’s Residence,
he went to Yad Vashem, and later in the day planted an olive tree in the KKL-JNF
Nations of the World Forest.