President Viktor Yushchenko has described his visit to Israel as “successful.” “I believe this visit has laid the new foundation for our relations, and new dynamics. I have seen many friends of Ukraine in Israel,” he said in a speech to Israel’s political leaders and scholars on Thursday, President’s press office reports.
Yushchenko stressed the importance of developing humanitarian and social cooperation between Ukraine and Israel. He said he had met with Israeli leaders yesterday and suggested during their talks that the two countries hold the third round of talks on pension benefits for Ukrainians living in Israel and Israelis residing in Ukraine in the first quarter of 2008.
The President urged both states to honor the “common pages of history” and said Ukraine had plans to erect monuments to its famous Jews or name libraries after them. “We would like this to become a separate aspect of our relations. Both sides should do this,” he said and added that Ukraine and Israel should together restore Jewish holy sites in his country.
He said he was ready to continue cooperation with Ukraine’s Jewish communities in studying the Holocaust and added that representatives of Yad Vashem would arrive in Ukraine soon to start a local Holocaust research program.
Yushchenko assured those present there was no anti-Semitism in Ukraine and that “there are no proponents of such an ideology among Ukrainian officials.” He said those recognized as Righteous Among the Nations had been presented with state awards in Ukraine and that he had recently signed a decree to return Torah scrolls to the country’s Jewish communities.
Speaking about Roman Shukhevych, leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which is often accused of helping the Germans during World War II, he said: “There is no fact proving that any Ukrainian liberation organization took part in the punitive operations, persecuted or killed Jews.”
Yushchenko added that he had suggested Yad Vashem and Ukraine’s National Memory Institute set up a special group to study this “sensitive issue.”
He called on the Jewish nation not to make hasty and emotional conclusions and insisted they must not be guided by stereotypes. “There will be no incorrect step towards the State of Israel and the Jewish people in my activity and in the activity of the Ukrainian government. This is not only my political but also my human obligation,” he said.
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