Yushchenko thanks Harper for support in NATO bid
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko thanked Prime Minister Stephen Harper Monday for supporting Ukraine's bid to join NATO.
Yushchenko, who held bilateral talks with Harper in Ottawa Monday, said considerable attention was paid to integration issues relating to Ukraine joining NATO.
"I'm grateful to His Excellency, Mr. Prime Minister, for his clear position that was stated on behalf of Canada during the (NATO) Bucharest Summit (last April)," Yushchenko told reporters at a joint press conference with Harper.
Canada's approval of Ukraine joining NATO is in line with the United States. However, other NATO members, such as France and Germany, have been more cautious about supporting Ukraine's bid to join the 26-member alliance.
Russia, fearing a further loss of influence, is opposed to Ukraine and Georgia joining the alliance.
Harper told reporters that it was up to NATO, not Canada, to decide if Ukraine should be allowed to join the alliance.
"I would just encourage all countries of NATO to examine the criteria for the MAP (Membership Action Plan) and make this decision based on clear criteria," he said. "We think if it's based that way Ukraine will proceed logically down that path."
The pair spoke to reporters immediately after delivering speeches in the House of Commons.
In his address, Harper expressed support for a private member's bill recognizing the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine as an act of genocide.
"In Canada we aren't afraid of history or of truth,'' Harper told Parliament.
"This is why our government recognized the injustice to Ukrainians who were interned during the First World War. . . (And this bill) would provide legal recognition of what happened in Ukraine under the brutal communist dictatorship of Josef Stalin."
The famine, orchestrated by Stalin, has been recognized as genocide by a dozen countries -- although some historians disagree with such a designation.
Yushchenko thanked Canada for its historic support of his country, especially for recognizing Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
"Every Ukrainian will always remember that," he said.
"I'm filled with very tender feelings to your country and to this land. For me as for millions of Ukrainians, this country and this land is sacred," Yushchenko said
In their earlier talks Monday, Harper and Yushchenko discussed the further development of political and commercial ties between Canada and Ukraine.
Additionally, they spoke about co-operation on the mission in Afghanistan.
Yushchenko said Ukraine was "ready to provide its assistance in air transportation" to help support peace in Afghanistan.
The Ukrainian leader will visit Winnipeg and Toronto during his three-day visit.
Yushchenko took power in 2004 following massive street protests after Viktor Yanukovych's presidential election win -- which many claimed was rigged.
With files from The Canadian Press