December 16, 2016 / 10:15 AM / 9 months ago

Ukraine commends EU step to secure association deal

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko delivers a speech during a ceremony to unveil the 'New Safe Confinement' (NSC) arch, that will block radiation from the damaged reactor, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday praised a European Union decision which paves the way for final agreement on a cooperation accord between Ukraine and the bloc.

The accord still needs to overcome reservations on the part of the Netherlands. But Kiev believes that the so-called association agreement will help the former Soviet republic move closer to Europe and away from Moscow’s orbit.

“It is a necessary step to achieve our common goal -– to secure the association agreement,” Poroshenko said in a post on social media.

EU leaders agreed on Thursday to spell out limits to the agreement with Ukraine to address Dutch concerns and prevent the deal from unravelling.

The leaders agreed it did not make Ukraine a candidate for EU membership, and did not entitle Kiev to financial aid or military assistance from the bloc. Neither did it give Ukrainians the right to live and work in the 28-nation union.

The Netherlands is the only EU country that has yet to ratify the deal, which would become void without its endorsement.

By imposing caveats on the deal, Prime Minister Mark Rutte aims to ease the concerns of Dutch voters, who rejected it in a referendum in April. Rutte will now take Thursday’s agreement to the Dutch parliament in an attempt to win its approval and overwrite the referendum result.

“We call upon the Netherlands to fulfil the relevant procedures to ensure its swift entry into force,” Poroshenko said.

Ukraine considers the agreement a symbol of the country’s future direction, 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A pro-Russian president in Kiev was toppled by street protests in 2014 after he tried to ditch the EU accord in favor of a deal with Moscow.

Russia responded by annexing Ukraine’s peninsula of Crimea and went on to back a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine, a conflict that has killed nearly 10,000 people to date.

Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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