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Poroshenko Sets Course For 'Euro-Atlantic' Security Integration

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko delivers a speech in the Polish parliament in Warsaw on December 17.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko delivers a speech in the Polish parliament in Warsaw on December 17.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on December 17 that he will soon ask parliament to abandon the country's neutral "nonbloc" status, and suggested he would steer the country closer to NATO.

A law passed in 2010, under then-President Viktor Yanukovych, precludes a NATO membership bid.

Speaking in the Polish parliament in Warsaw, Poroshenko said, "Today in this chamber, I have made the decision that my country will return to the course toward integration with the sphere of Euro-Atlantic security."

He did not mention NATO by name.

Poroshenko said that, upon returning to Kyiv, he would "file a motion to the Ukrainian parliament to reject the nonaligned status of my country."

He said, "Ukraine today is in a virtual state of war. Russia annexed Crimea. Illegal armed groups, under the control of our eastern neighbor, are increasing their armed activity in the Donbass."

Though Ukraine's acceptance into the 28-member NATO alliance is widely seen as improbable at present, Poroshenko's comments are likely to anger Moscow which sees Ukraine's accession as a threat to its own security.

Striking a more optimistic note, the Ukrainian president said that new internationally mediated peace talks between Ukraine, Russian-backed rebels, and Russia itself could start December 20 in Minsk.

"We agreed for the Contact Group to hold a video conference on Thursday [December 18] and Friday [December 19]," he said, referring to representatives from Kyiv, Moscow, the rebels controlling parts of eastern Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Poroshenko also said his goal was for Ukraine to submit an application to join the European Union in 2020.

Meanwhile, the European Union's foreign policy chief said on December 17 that she and Poroshenko had detected signs of greater willingness from Russia to resolve the crisis in Ukraine's pro-separatist eastern territories.

The cautiously-worded comments of the EU's Federica Mogherini, who spoke during a visit to Kyiv, echoed those of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said the previous day that Russia has made constructive moves recently towards reducing tensions in Ukraine, where more than 4,700 people have been killed in the pro-Russian uprising since April.

Mogherini, who held talks with Poroshenko the previous day, said, "We shared the impression that there might be some elements that could make us think that there might be some more willingness to solve the conflict on the Russian side, on President [Vladimir] Putin's side."

Mogherini was visiting Kyiv to discuss with the pro-Western authorities their handling of the conflict and their progress in implementing economic reforms in line with an association and free trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine.

With reporting by Reuters and Interfax
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