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YALTA, September 21 (Itar-Tass) - Ukraine is ready to cooperate with the Customs Union member states (Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia) after signing the Association Agreement with the European Union, Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said on Saturday, September 21.
“We will come to consensus. There is no avoiding each other. We are destined to cooperate with the Customs Union countries,” Azarov said at the 10th Yalta European Strategy (YES) Conference, which is the largest social institution of public diplomacy in Eastern Europe, providing an open and equal dialogue on global issues affecting the European Union, Ukraine, Russia and other countries. This non-partisan organisation established in 2004.
He said that the Association Agreement with the EU posed no threat to the Customs Union. “Ukraine is trying to convince Customs Union member states of this,” he said.
The prime minister said Kiev was ready to set up joint customs posts with the Customs Union countries to control imports. “We are trying to resolve this situation while understanding how important the Customs Union markets are,” he added.
Azarov will go to Astana on September 25 where the Customs Union’s Supreme Council will meet at the level of heads of government.
In Kazakhstan, Azarov hopes to dispel Russia’s concerns that European goods may flow to the Customs Union countries as Ukrainian after the creation of a free trade area between Ukraine and the EU.
“The possibility of supplying European goods to Russia and the Customs Union as Ukrainian ones after the creation of a free trade area between Ukraine and the EU is hypothetical, and Ukraine can guarantee that this will not happen in real life,” the prime minister said.
He noted that Ukraine already had such agreements with two dozen countries. A year ago, it created a free trade area with four countries of the European Free Trade Association, but this did not lead to illegal transit of goods from those countries to the Customs Union states.
“We are engaged in negotiations on free trade agreements with Israel, Canada and Turkey. Why don’t they raise any concerns or questions? Aren’t Customs Union countries conducting such talks?” Azarov added.
Customs Union countries are key trade partners for Ukraine. In 2012, trade turnover with them reached 63 billion U.S. dollars, making up 36 percent of Ukraine's overall export. Ukraine has no status in the Customs Union now as there is no status of observer in this organisation. However, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has already discussed his country’s possible participation in the Customs Union as an observer with the leaders of its member states.
He said Ukraine intended to become an observer in the Customs Union at first and then would gradually adapt itself to the new format of cooperation with its member states.
Yanukovich said that Ukraine was looking for a model of cooperation with the Customs Union.
He believes that the country can become an observer in the Customs Union and “find a formula that will correspond to the level of our relations.”
“We are interested in this. In fact, the Customs Union countries are our strategic partners,” the president said.
Yanukovich stressed that Russia is a “key country in the Customs Union.”
Ukraine cannot ignore the existence of the Customs Union and should work out acceptable forms of cooperation with it, Yanukovich said.
However he reiterated once again that European integration is a priority for Ukraine.