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09 December 2004

Fair Election Could Invigorate U.S.-Ukraine Ties, Says Armitage

Ukraine's Novy Kanal TV interviews deputy secretary of state

A free, fair election December 26 in Ukraine, no matter which candidate wins, could invigorate Ukraine's relations with the United States and NATO, says U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

"It could be a bright future," he told Novy Kanal TV in an interview December 8 in Washington.

"We are not looking for any particular person to be elected," he said of Ukraine's repeat presidential runoff election. "We are looking to have a free, fair and open process, and one that is judged so by the international community."

Asked about Ukrainian troops in Iraq, Armitage said the United States would respect any decision a new democratically elected government made, whether that decision is to keep those troops in the coalition or to withdraw them.

"We've been gratified to have Ukrainian forces stand alongside other coalition members," he said, adding: "They've done a fine job, and one that the people of Iraq are grateful for."

Following is the State Department transcript:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
December 8, 2004

INTERVIEW

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE RICHARD L. ARMITAGE
ON NOVY KANAL TV WITH OLEKSANDR TKACHENKO

December 8, 2004
Washington, D.C.

(11:30 a.m. EST)

QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Armitage.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Hello.

QUESTION: The first question. Today, Ukrainian parliament reached quite a historical agreement which allows to -- which opened the door, in fact, for a new round of elections. What is your attitude to that and what you can say about it?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think it's a great victory for the people of Ukraine. It appears that they will have another chance to have a free, fair and open election. I'm very grateful to the activities of President Kwasniewski of Poland and President Adamkus, Mr. Solana and others, who have participated so well to help bring this about.

I think I might also note the speaker of the Rada, Mr. Lytvyn, who also from this distance appears to have been very energetic in trying to bring this about.

QUESTION: Is this what the U.S. expected to see?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, it's not important what the U.S. expected to see. We had always hoped for a free, fair and open election. The important this is, is it what the people of Ukraine expect to see, and it looks from this distance, again, as if it is.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Mr. Colin Powell, State Secretary, and Mr. Lavrov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation, have a dispute over Ukraine on (inaudible) meeting in Sophia. Recently also, statements by Mr. Putin do not speak of good (inaudible) and other Russian politicians were quite drastic about the situation in Ukraine. Don't you think that Russia, by this statement, interfere into Ukrainian internal relations?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, that's a question for Ukrainian officials and people to think about. From our point of view, we've never viewed this as a zero-sum game. This is not about spheres of influence. This is only about the ability of a free people to make a free, open and democratic choice. We're not playing any games about spheres of interest ourselves.

QUESTION: But many people in Ukraine believe that U.S. on this election has their own candidate and Russia definitely has their own candidate.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, to the extent that we had a candidate, it was the people of Ukraine. We were always focused on the process. I myself had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Yanukovich and to Mr. Yushchenko. This is a choice that the people of Ukraine have to make. We were concerned with a process that was open, free and fair.

QUESTION: So, many -- but nevertheless, many people in Ukraine also believe the statement that was done by Mr. Bush and Mr. Colin Powell about the election process was definitely a sort of support to one particular candidate.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, it's quite clear that the previous elections were deemed as not free, not fair, and rife with fraud. So to that extent, some forces were putting their thumb on the scale toward one candidate or the other. We just want an open, balanced scale so the people of Ukraine can figure out who they want to lead them into the future.

QUESTION: If election comes quite soon, fair and transparent, could we expect that Ukraine drew a signal from the West that Ukraine can join someday European Union and WTO [World Trade Organization]?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I'll let our European friends speak about the European Union. But the WTO, assuming Ukraine meets the criteria, would be a welcome member.

We are not looking for any particular person to be elected. We are looking to have a free, fair and open process, and one that is judged so by the international community. We hope to have observers there and we think our friends in the OSCE and other organizations will be there to do the best we can to help assure the people of Ukraine that things were open and fair.

QUESTION: But in case of fair and transparent elections, could we expect the improvement between -- improvement of U.S. and Ukrainian relationship?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Absolutely so.

QUESTION: So, in what terms, and how we will see that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think we've been somewhat estranged from Ukraine because of what we've seen as political difficulties, though we have been gratified by the decision of the Government of Ukraine to assist us in Iraq and assist the people of Iraq. But I think this opens -- if there's a free and fair election, no matter who, which candidate wins, there's the possibility of a much more invigorated relationship with the United States. I think there's the possibility of a much more invigorated and energetic relationship with NATO. So there's -- it could be a bright future.

QUESTION: It was rumors and comments in press that in case of unfair elections and violations, that United States can impose a sort of sanctions against Ukraine, and it was also press reports that State Department didn't issue some visas to United States to some Ukrainian politicians and businesspeople. Is it true?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, as a general matter -- I don't know the specific businessmen or politicians. But as a general matter, if people are not of good character, we would be disinclined to have them visit our country.

On the question of sanctions, I think our view would be that we're betting on and we're hoping on and we're counting on free and fair elections. If the elections were not free and fair, we would certainly consult with our friends in the EU and neighbors to Ukraine and figure out what should be done about it.

This is not a time to make idle threats. This is a time to, I think, join in the euphoria that the Ukrainian people seem to feel, and do all we can do to bring about those good elections.

QUESTION: You know that Ukrainian parliament wanted to ask the President to withdraw Ukrainian troops from Iraq. If the new president comes and supports this idea, how it will affect Ukrainian and U.S. relationship?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we respect, first of all, the opinion of the Rada. And if there's a democratically elected government, obviously, we'd have to respect any decision that government made. But let's await the outcome of these elections on the 26th of December and see where we are.

We've been gratified to have Ukrainian forces stand alongside other coalition members. They've done a fine job, and one that the people of Iraq are grateful for.

QUESTION: Have you seen personally, all this coverage shown on television about what happened in Ukraine?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I don't know that I've seen it all, but I certainly saw an awful lot of it. Most of the world's attention has been focused on these developments. But I can say without fear of contradiction one thing, that on 26 December, the entire world's focus will be on Ukraine, and not just Independence Square.

QUESTION: And a personal question. What were your emotions when you saw this? And you have been in Ukraine, I think, two or three times.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I must say that the courage of people who stood up in the square and stayed under very difficult weather conditions and seemed to keep a very enthusiastic and well-spirited emotion under control was something that filled us with admiration and a bit of humility. Now their aspirations have to be fulfilled. There has to be a free election.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Mr. Armitage. (In Ukrainian.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Thank you very much.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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