ZHITOMIR, 4 October (BelTA) – Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko took part in the 2nd Forum of Regions of Belarus and Ukraine in Zhitomir on 4 October, BelTA has learned.
In his speech the head of state mentioned how his first meeting with the president of Ukraine had proceeded, outlined priority areas of cooperation between the countries, and sketched out Belarus' proposals on stepping up interaction in various spheres.
“I thank to all Ukrainians, the president for the invitation to visit brotherly Ukraine and take part in the 2nd Forum of Regions. Time has given us an excellent opportunity to compare notes and determine future priorities. We are ready to look into Ukraine's proposals regarding the enhancement of bilateral cooperation. I am convinced that our first meeting and personal acquaintance will become a big step towards the enhancement and development of old-established relations between the two states,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The head of state stressed that the today's talks are more than just a personal acquaintance in terms of essence and volume. “It was like clearing the rubble which has accumulated over the last few years. Unfortunately, it turned out that time chose us to clear this rubble. And we have begun doing it today,” he said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that oblasts, districts, cities, and towns of Belarus and Ukraine are connected by 120 cooperation agreements. These documents guarantee comprehensive development of economic, trade, cultural and humanitarian ties. The scale of this cooperation allowed arranging the 1st Forum of Regions of Belarus and Ukraine in Gomel in 2018. “That dialogue of equal partners and good neighbors resulted in commercial contracts and agreements worth more than $100 million. This forum has generated more that $500 million. It is important that all of them are being fulfilled,” the head of state stressed. “A new big package of documents signed during these days shows that this format of interaction is in demand and of current interest.”
“Naturally, Ukraine is one of Belarus' key trading partners. In 2018 alone our trade grew by nearly 20%, however there is still room for growth. The common history and neighborhood have predetermined cooperation priorities, including in economy. Those are primarily fuel and energy sector, agribusiness, manufacturing cooperation, transport, and logistics,” the Belarusian head of state said.
Belarus is ready to negotiate shipping more oil products to Ukrainian companies. Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that it is necessary to support joint projects in this field in the future. “We don't hide the fact that we are now looking for alternative ways to import hydrocarbon raw materials from international markets. Most of the negotiations were dedicated to this matter. We've agreed that instead of simply looking into options we are going to act. It is only natural and is not designed to harm interests of some other countries. We need to do it. The current security of the two countries depends on it if you want,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.
According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the open Ukrainian electricity market creates serious prerequisites for mutually beneficial cooperation. The Belarusian side has already signed several commercial contracts to sell electricity to Ukraine. “Once the Belarusian nuclear power plant is commissioned in 2020, we will be very interested in the work experience of the Ukrainian nuclear energy industry,” he stated.
Aleksandr Lukashenko sees great prospects in mechanical engineering industry and the joint development of transport routes. “The geographical location of our countries opens good opportunities for logistics industry. Ukraine's and Belarus' transit appeal can be enhanced by navigation along the Dnieper River, along the Pripyat River, and its integration into the international water way E40,” the Belarusian head of state pointed out.
Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that trade is a two-way road. In turn, Belarus imports Ukrainian metal, agricultural products, foods, forage additives, medications, and many other things.
“The multibillion trade turnover between the two countries stems from the regional level. This is why we pay close attention to the development of interregional contacts,” the Belarusian leader explained. He reminded that MTZ tractors and Gomselmash harvesters are now assembled in the Ukrainian cities of Nikolayev and Nezhin, Belkommunmash trolleybuses and MAZ vehicles are assembled in Lutsk and Dnepr, Mogilevliftmash lifts – in Vyshgorod, MAZ automobiles – in Cherkassy. A major transportation and logistics hub of the Belarusian group Santa operates in Kiev Oblast. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, multiple other examples of genuine economic cooperation involving the regions can be cited.
During the negotiations the two heads of state confirmed their interest in setting up joint manufacturing enterprises. “The sphere of interests is huge,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked. “We invite our Ukrainian friends and brothers to jointly make the machines and vehicles we've been making for a long time, including in one country. We created those enterprises together with you. All the republics of the Soviet Union made a contribution to the establishment of the aircraft engineering industry in Ukraine and the tractor engineering industry and the mechanical engineering industry in Belarus. Let's open those joint ventures today.”
Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned missile engineering as an example. Close attention is paid in Belarus to this branch of the defense industry today. “You have ample experience. You can help us. We will accomplish the relevant program within 1.5-2 years instead of five. And we will bring products, goods, and technologies you've never developed but need so much to you.” According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, if Belarus and Ukraine can create a world-level product, more investments will be poured into the countries and the two countries will be able to help other ones, too.
“The dialogue platform of the forum has proved its effectiveness. We see that regions of Belarus and Ukraine make a tangible contribution to efforts to increase trade,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stated. It may be advisable to hold the forum every year instead of every two years, the president remarked. The Ukrainian side backed the idea. The sides agreed to discuss the matter and make the relevant decision.
Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “Frankly speaking, the closer we are to you, the closer and more united our countries are, the greater pressure we will feel. Nobody will ever let us maintain very strong friendship regardless of what politicians around us and in the world may say. Unfortunately, the world operates on the ‘divide and conquer' principle.”
Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that Belarus-Ukraine friendship will feel pressure not from one side but both from the East and the West. “The president [of Ukraine] and I recognize it. We talked about it in private. We are resolute to overcome this barrier,” the head of state stressed. “We are kind people. We don't want to be friends against someone or wage a war against someone. We have to be strong.”
The president added that dialogue of cultures built on traditions and spiritual values close to Belarusians and Ukrainians alike takes a special place in the relations between the two countries. “A year has passed, but Minsk residents and visitors are still impressed by the Days of Ukrainian Culture. Ukrainian performers have become an adornment of international festivals: Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk and Kupala Night in Alexandria. We are happy that Belarusian performers are also popular in Ukraine. We are proud that Art Director of Syabry Ensemble [Anatoly Yarmolenko] received the Ukrainian Person of the Year 2018 award,” the head of state said.
In his words, the forthcoming Days of Belarusian Culture in Kiev will become a great opportunity for Belarusians to share their folk and modern art with Ukrainian friends.
The head of state recalled the 2nd European Games and The Match Europe v USA that Minsk had recently hosted. Ukrainian athletes took an active part in these competitions and performed successfully there. Ukraine placed third in the overall standings at the 2nd European Games.
“I think that our states could bid to co-host big international sport competitions. I am talking about the Ukrainian president's proposal to bid to co-host the Olympic Games. Together we can do it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that Belarus and Ukraine are not simply neighbors. The countries enjoy longstanding friendship which is stronger that any most efficient economic, diplomatic and cultural partnership. “These are blood and spiritual ties, the ties of our Slavonic unity. Today these ties are supported by business contacts, cultural and educational projects, tourism, and trips to friends and our loved ones. We cherish our relations and value the friendship between our nations,” the Belarusian leader said.More about President