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YALTA, September 20 (Itar-Tass) - Ukraine seeks to sign an association agreement with the European Union and at the same time to strengthen ties with Russia, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara said on Friday.
“We seek association with the EU guided by our national interests. Most of our citizens support the idea of association and a further deepening of relations with the EU, at the same time wishing to develop strategic partnership with Russia,” the top diplomat said.
According to him, these two goals were not at variance. “We must clearly understand it and assess the association agreement from the point of view of unique new possibilities, including for our partnership with the Russian Federation,” Kozhara told the Korrespondent magazine in an article timed to the YES forum that opens in Yalta on Friday.
He once again stressed that the association agreement was “in no way aimed against the interests of third countries”. “Moreover, I am sure that it has certain advantages and new prospects both for our bilateral relations with Russia and for cooperation within the Ukraine-Russia-EU format,” Kozhara added.
According to him, EU countries and Russia are major trade partners for Ukraine. “Producers of the EU are interested in vast possibilities of both our countries - a more than 140-million-people market of Russia and a 46-million Ukrainian market,” he said. As for Russia, EU accounts for about half of its foreign trade, while Ukraine is placed fifth among Russia’s trade partners, the minister noted.
He said last year trade between the European Union and Russia reached a record high of 440 billion dollars, and Russia became the third biggest trade partner of the EU after the United States and China.
“Proceeding from such a good pace of cooperation, we are confident that the signing of the agreement and the creation of a free trade zone between Ukraine and the EU will only strengthen our cooperation with Russia,” the Ukrainian foreign minister said.