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Ukraine: Canadian Minister's Visit Brings Aid And Business Deals

Ottawa, 29 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- A two-day visit to Ukraine by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and a trade delegation of more than 70 people has resulted in new technical assistance programs and business deals, Canadian officials say.

Axworthy ended his visit last Thursday by announcing $7.5 million in aid. Most of the money will help Ukraine in shutting down the Chernobyl nuclear plant and monitoring radiation levels.

However, there is also funding for improvements to old hydroelectric plants, Ukraine's electricity distribution system, agricultural reform, and assistance for Ukraine's troubled oil and gas sector. Over the last five years, Canada has granted more than $120 million for technical assistance projects in Ukraine.

While in Kyiv, Axworthy met with President Leonid Kuchma, Foreign Minister Hennadiy Udovenko and the Speaker of Ukraine's Parliament, Oleksandr Morozov.

In those meetings, the Canadian Minister promised to speak for Kyiv in the Group of Seven. The group of the world's largest industrialized nations has pledged $3 billion to close Chernobyl, site of the world's worst nuclear accident 10 years ago, although Ukraine has complained about the length of time it is taking for that aid to materialize.

Axworthy also said Canada supports Ukraine's call for a "special partnership" with NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, rather than actual membership. He described Canada as being in favor of "a new, special, unique relationship of Ukraine with NATO."

The business delegation signed more than $600 million worth of deals during the visit. The Foreign Affairs Minister said that is a strong statement that the relationship between the two countries is moving forward. It makes Canada one of the largest overall investors in Ukraine. The major deals are:

The designation of Air Canada as a designated carrier which enables the airline to initiate service to Ukraine from one of its European gateways within the next year.

A joint project between SNC-Lavelin of Montreal and Kyiv to build a $400 million World Trade Center in Kyiv which will include exhibition space, a hotel, office buildings and apartments.

A $12 million joint venture with Western AG of Toronto to assemble Canadian grain harvesting equipment in Ukraine.

A $30 million licensing agreement with Lateral Vector Resources to develop an oilfield in Ukraine.