Clinton: NATO will keep door open to Ukraine despite rejection
NATO would welcome the Ukraine as a member despite its abandonment of plans to join the defence alliance, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday while on an official visit to the Ukrainian capital Kiev, dpa reported.
"NATO'S door remains open but it is up to Ukraine to decide whether or not you wish to pursue that or any other course for your own security interests," Clinton said.
"Ukraine is a sovereign and independent country that has the right to choose your own alliances," she continued.
The Ukrainian parliament voted late Thursday to approve a law proposed by President Viktor Yanukovych that confirmed the country's non-aligned status.
Of the parliament's 450 deputies, 259 voted in favour of the law.
But the Ukraine still wants to pursue a "constructive partnership with NATO" and to participate in military exercises with European NATO members.
Kiev will also continue to aim for European Union membership.
"Ukraine's path towards European integration has no alternative and that has never been in doubt," Yanukovych told Clinton.
The Ukraine's relations with Russia have also become markedly warmer under Yanukovych than they were under his pro-Western predecessor Viktor Yushchenko, whom he defeated in elections in February.
Clinton is to continue her trip with visits to Poland, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.