Peres welcomes president of Ukraine

Peres terms "historic" visit by Victor Yanukovych.

Peres with Ukrainian President Yanukovych 311 (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
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.
Although 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.
Peres 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 Strategy forum.
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 global economy.
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 region.
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 1991.
Since then, he said, a dynamic bilateral dialogue has developed, and economic trade, scientific and cultural ties between the two countries have been strengthened.
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.
He was 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.
Yanukovych said he looked forward to greater cooperation in other areas as a result of his trip.
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.