President Viktor Yushchenko on Tuesday met with Israel’s Ukrainians and members of an organization of Jewish citizens born in Ukraine and called for lifting visa restrictions on nationals of both countries. He said he would discuss the visa issue with his counterpart, Shimon Peres, on Wednessday, the president's press office reported.

In his speech, Yushchenko stressed the importance of developing closer political ties between Ukraine and Israel. “Ukraine is interested in developing our political dialogue more actively. We should communicate more,” he said, expressing confidence this would help develop business cooperation.

He said Israeli businessmen had invested only USD 60 million in Ukraine’s economy by 1 April 2007. “I am convinced we have much greater capabilities,” he said.

“Today Ukraine’s government is looking at the organization of our economic relations exclusively through the prism of transparency and economic competition,” he said and added that the two countries must also develop trade.

Yushchenko said Ukraine remained committed to its EU integration bid and that much progress had been made in its talks with the European Union to sign an enhanced cooperation agreement.

The president then said there were no ethnic conflicts in Ukraine: “My goal is to demonstrate that Ukraine is the state that can ensure the equality of all national minorities.”

He said there are 40 Jewish periodicals, 6 Jewish schools, 100 Sunday schools for Jews and 109 synagogues in Ukraine, most of which have been returned to the Jewish community.

Yushchenko also said 193 countries had recently voted to pass a UNESCO resolution to condemn the Great Famine of 1932-1933 and honor its victims.


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