Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 9

The Ukrainian parliament yesterday debated and ratified with some non-binding qualifications the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership, signed by Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv last May 29. The document belongs in the category of goodneighborly relations treaties, and took five years to negotiate. It received 317 votes in favor, out of 361 deputies present in the 450-seat Ukrainian parliament.

In their statements on the occasion, Ukrainian parliamentary and government leaders described the treaty as "historic," the first of its kind between Russia and an independent Ukraine. The officials stressed that the document enshrines Ukraine’s political independence, territorial integrity, and borders as inviolable; and rules out the resort to force, threat of force, or economic pressure. According to the parliament’s foreign affairs commission chairman, Boris Oliinyk, the treaty "should substantially improve not only the politics but also the psychology of Russian-Ukrainian relations." Top officials of the executive branch added that the treaty’s significance transcends bilateral relations, because those relations are in turn a factor in European stability. The treaty is valid for a ten-year period, with automatic ten-year extensions unless denounced by either side. (Ukrainian agencies, January 14)

In an accompanying document, adopted with 301 votes in favor, the Ukrainian parliament called on the Russian government and Duma to "accelerate the resolution" of some long-pending matters, including: delimitation and demarcation of the mutual border; the succession to assets and liabilities of the former USSR; return of hard-currency deposits from the ex-Soviet Vneshekonombank to their Ukrainian owners; and creation of cultural facilities in Russia for the Ukrainian minority, whom the treaty places on a par with the Russian minority in Ukraine. Russia’s Duma is scheduled to take up the treaty for ratification next month. The parliament also adopted an instruction to the Ukrainian government to finalize the division of the Black Sea Fleet on the basis of the Ukrainian constitution, which prohibits the stationing of foreign military forces on the country’s territory. (Russian agencies, January 14)

These qualifications suggest that the interstate treaty, with all its historic significance, will not in itself suffice fully to normalize Russian-Ukrainian relations any time soon. Moscow will probably continue creating difficulties on border delimitation and on security issues in the Black Sea. Nevertheless, developments since the treaty’s signing last May testify to unprecedented progress in the atmosphere of bilateral relations and on the economic front. The landmarks include: completing the second stage of the Black Sea Fleet’s partition; last November’s informal summit; last week’s reciprocal removal of barriers to trade (see Monitor, January 13); and next month’s official summit meeting of Yeltsin and Kuchma in Moscow, where a ten-year economic cooperation program is expected to be signed.

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