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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release May 16, 1997
                         First Plenary Session
                  U.S.-Ukraine Binational Commission
                           Washington, D.C. 
                             May 16, 1997

Welcome, and thank you very much. Mr. President, Ministers, Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, it is a privilege to welcome you here today, and to formally convene the first session of the U.S.-Ukraine Binational Commission. This is indeed an historic moment for our nations and our peoples, for today we begin a grand new turning point in our relationship.

We have much to celebrate. From Donetsk to Lviv, Ukraine's citizens have chosen to look towards a future nurtured by free minds and free markets. They have said yes to reform and democracy. And they have said no to tyranny. No to rule by fiat. No to corruption. No to the stranglehold of planned economies and planned lives.

But we also have much hard work ahead of us to lock-in these gains. Though the bulk of this work must be accomplished by the citizens of Ukraine themselves, we continue to be ready to help where possible, but there are many things we cannot do for you. In the end, economic development, trade and investment can only proceed in Ukraine if the objective conditions for such progress exist and if investors, Ukrainian and foreign, conclude that they have reasonable conditions in which to operate.

We know reform is not easy. And we applaud your achievements to date, and recognize that many decisions on reform policy required vision and courage. It is the same vision and courage Ukraine showed in its historic decision to eliminate its nuclear arsenal, to accede to the NPT, to make possible full implementation of START I, and to approve the CFE Flank Agreement. The world is grateful for Ukraine's leadership.

We also have good reason to take pride in what has been accomplished in establishing independent Ukraine's proper place on the European and world scene. From UNPROFOR to IFOR, to the Partnership For Peace, Ukraine has shown readiness to actively contribute to building a new Europe, and the United States is committed to working with you to keep your further integration into Europe's structures and institutions on a dynamic track.

So let us begin. There is much to do as we build and nurture our strategic partnership; a partnership based on shared ideals, mutual respect, and a commitment to work in good faith towards the resolution of issues even at times when our interests may naturally diverge. And as we proceed, let us remain flexible to meet changing needs and situations, and let us speak frankly to each other as mature partners and friends do.

I am optimistic about the future, Mr. President. But I am also realistic about the challenges ahead. A more prosperous -- and democratic -- future will only take hold with the active commitment of all those who truly believe in freedom and the right of all people to have a voice in their political and economic destinies. President Clinton and I -- and each of us here today -- are not neutral bystanders. We know which forces we want to prevail, and they are the forces of reform.

That is what brings us here today to convene this important session. The stakes are high. Failure is not an option. Our day will be busy as our future will be bright. So let us get to work. Thank you very much.