NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has expressed the hope that Ukraine's leadership will settle the issue of the politically motivated prosecution of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko as soon as possible in order to remove these obstacles in further cooperation with the Alliance.

Giving the interview on occasion of the 15th anniversary of signing the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine, Rasmussen noted a significant progress in the cooperation over these years.

When asked whether this was a reason why NATO postponed the visit of the North Atlantic Council to Ukraine, which could take place this summer, Rasmussen said that they did conduct an overall assessment on the current situation.

"There is no reason to hide that the Tymoshenko and Lutsenko cases and others are a matter of concern. And a mutual commitment to the rule of law and respect for human rights are also a part of our distinctive partnership. And for that reason I see these cases as a major stumbling block in our relationship, and I urged the political leadership of Ukraine to get this issue resolved as soon as possible," the NATO Secretary General said.

When asked what will be a clear indication that the Ukraine-NATO relations can come back on the track and when the visit of North Atlantic Council will take place, Rasmussen noted that there were many things to be taken into account, including the very busy schedule of the NATO officials.
"But ultimately let me be very frank about it. I think the release of Tymoshenko would of course be an important element, but in general I think Ukraine's clear commitment to reforms of the judicial system and the legal system in Ukraine is a very important element in the further development of this distinctive partnership," he said.

Speaking about the 15th anniversary of the Charter, the secretary general stressed the importance the distinctive partnership based on the fact that an independent, sovereign and stable Ukraine is one of the corner stones in the Euro-Atlantic security. "This is a reason why we decided to engage with Ukraine within the framework of this distinctive partnership. We have seen a lot of progress in our relationship during these 15 years," he emphasized.

Rasmussen noted that over the 15 years of distinctive partnership the political leadership in Ukraine had changed on several occasions but relations with Ukraine had been good, and the partnership had gradually developed during that period. He noted that the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, it was decided that Ukraine would become a member of NATO. "And that is of course an invitation. It is a statement that our door remains open... But at the same time we fully respect Ukraine's decision to pursue what is called non-bloc status. That is for Ukraine to decide," the secretary general specified the Alliance’s position.

Once again he said that NATO considers Ukraine a very important partner, but that it still had certain concerns. "I hope the political leadership in Ukraine are aware of this serious concern, and will take a necessary step to remove that stumbling block," Rasmussen said.

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