Ukraine Hopes To Get NATO Membership Invitation In 2008: FM

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Ukraine hoped to be formally invited into NATO membership in 2008, said Ukraine's Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk on Friday.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (R) talks to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk before the informal meeting of the NATO-Ukraine commission in Sofia April 28, 2006

"Our strategic objective is to get an invitation to join NATO, hopefully in 2008," he told reporters at a joint press conference with NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Tarasyuk said he had told NATO foreign ministers in an informal NATO-Ukraine meeting that his country hoped to be invited to join the NATO membership action plan this year.

The membership action plan is an indispensable stage for NATO membership before a formal invitation.

At present, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia are part of the membership action plan, while Ukraine and Georgia are still waiting for a nod from NATO.

Tarasyuk said Ukraine was in the process of creating "a new coalition of democratic forces," which would eventually form a new government.

"Ukraine's strategic foreign policy objective, that is to join NATO, is irreversible," he said.

He admitted, however, that a lot of homework needed to be done, including increasing public awareness of NATO and public support for NATO membership.

He said Ukraine would continue its support for NATO operations in Kosovo, in the Mediterranean and that it was in consultation with NATO for Ukraine's possible role in Afghanistan, where NATO is leading a 9,000-strong International Security Assistance Force.

NATO is trying to increase the multi-national force to 16,000 this summer and expand its service to the south of Afghanistan, where the security situation is volatile.

De Hoop Scheffer said the accession process for aspirant countries was strictly performance-based, and he refused to set up specific timelines for those countries.

"When Ukraine is ready, NATO is ready," he said, adding that this rule applied in a broad sense to all aspiring countries.

He reiterated that NATO operated an open door policy for all European democracies and said NATO was looking forward to working with the new Ukrainian government.

Source: Xinhua