NATO CHIEF TO VISIT UKRAINE – NATO OFFICE IN KYIV

Wall Street Journal on September 7, 2015, reported that the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will make his first visit to Ukraine later this month, as that country enters a critical period which is supposed to see Russia and Ukraine fully implement February’s cease-fire agreement. Excerpts below:

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s visit was announced by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, during his visit to the alliance’s Brussels headquarters. The visit was confirmed by NATO, although no other details were provided.

Mr. Klimkin said Mr. Stoltenberg is expected to sign an agreement that would allow the alliance to set up an office in Ukraine and increase cooperation on strategic communications, demining, naval issues and special operations.

“It should be a symbolic visit in our relations,” he said.

The visit comes ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline for the full implementation of February’scease-fire agreement between Ukraine, Russia and pro-Russian separatists, signed in the Belarus capital of Minsk.

In his remarks in Brussels on September 7, Mr. Klimkin said he could meet with his German, French and Russian counterparts as early as the end of the week, but only if there is progress with ongoing lower-level negotiations over the Minsk accords.

“It doesn’t make sense to get together just for the sake of getting together,” said Pavlo Klimkin, the foreign minister.

He said he wanted to see progress on agreement to allow for an exchange of hostages, access for humanitarian assistance and an agreement on local elections in eastern Ukraine.

Separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas region have threatened to hold local elections on Oct. 18 and Nov 1. Ukraine is holding local elections on Oct. 25, but has said it would not hold the ballot in some areas in the east because of ongoing hostilities.

Mr. Klimkin also urged Russia to allow election monitors into the Donbas.

Comment: Opening of a NATO office in Ukraine is an important step forward towards Ukraine membership in the organization. It is crucial the the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe does not overshadow the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine. Russia must withdraw its troops from eastern Ukraine and stop supporting separatist groups in the region. Ukraine should be on the top of the agenda of the European Union. Lethal defensive weapons must be provided to the government in Kyiv. Ukraine needs continuing support for integration into the European Union and it also needs weapon deliveries from the United States.

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