yushchenko peres 224 88.
(photo credit: AP)
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Wednesday presented President Shimon Peres with a box containing scores of declassified documents pertaining to the Jewish underground's activities in Ukraine from the 1920s until the end of World War II.
The documents contain the names of Jewish underground leaders, details of their murders and the locations of their graves.
Peres said he was extremely moved to receive the documents, as well as 800 Torah scrolls. Both were symbols of the current good relations between Israel and Ukraine, he said.
In welcoming Yushchenko to Israel, Peres noted that although there had been many rays of light during the Jewish people's long history in Ukraine, there had also been great darkness. Nonetheless, he said, it was important to look forward as well as backward.
"We must not erase the past, but we cannot neglect the future," said Peres.
Peres also remarked on how although there had been harsh periods for Jews in Ukraine, Jewish culture had developed there to an extraordinary degree. Borrowing from the old adage that from Kiev, one can smell Europe, Peres said that from Kiev and Odessa, one could taste Israel.
Two Israeli presidents and three of the country's prime ministers were born in Ukraine, he said, as were many prominent rabbis, poets such as Haim Nahman Bialik and Uri Zvi Greenberg, and author Shalom Aleichem.
Altogether, said Peres, some 500,000 Israelis were of Ukrainian origin, and many of them had been involved in the creation and development of the state.
In his private discussions with Peres, Yushchenko expressed a desire for Ukraine to become part of the Middle East peace process and said his country would be willing to host Israeli-Palestinian dialogues in the hope that a greater understanding could be reached between the two sides.
Because aine, like Israel, has an impressive defense industry, Yushchenko also suggested that cooperation in this field could be mutually beneficial.
In fact, he was keen to upgrade relations with Israel at all levels, and agreed with Peres that the Middle East peace process should be conducted on an economic track parallel to the political track.
Yushchenko affirmed his country's respect for Israel and the Jewish people and said that even though there was still some stereotyped anti-Semitism in Ukraine, as a matter of policy, there was no anti-Semitism or Zionophobia.
The State of Israel is very important, both in the Middle East and globally, he said, and "although three hours separate us, there are many things that unite us."
In presenting the declassified documents to Peres, Yushchenko said this was further evidence of the importance Ukraine attaches to its relations with Israel.
"In the State of Israel, we see partners on all issues, both regional and global," he said.
Peres and Yushchenko signed a partnership agreement, and a memorandum of cooperation on the European Football Championships, which will be hosted by Poland and Ukraine in 2012, was signed by Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai and Ukrainian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Yunii Koslenko.
Sources on both sides unofficially stated that the memorandum related to security precautions in which Israel had greater expertise than Ukraine.
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