Petro Poroshenko: 'I am thankful to Canada'
Ukrainian president addresses Canadian Parliament a day after signing historic agreement with EU
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko thanked Canada warmly for its support and called for closer ties between the two countries in a speech to Parliament on Wednesday.
"I am thankful to Canada. Your country was one of the soundest supporters of Ukraine," he said after being greeted by a standing ovation from MPs and senators gathered in the House of Commons.
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"Let's look beyond the crisis and war … we need to pay more attention to the bilateral co-operation in such spheres as energy, trade, investment, information, aerospace and many other technologies," Poroshenko added.
Canada and Ukraine also committed to pick up where they'd left off on stalled trade negotiations.
"I hope that both negotiation teams translated our firm signal, the prime minister's and mine, and the next time we will see each other, we will have [a] Ukraine-Canada free trade agreement to sign."
While Poroshenko warmly praised Canada for its support and longstanding relationship, in his speech and in an exclusive interview with Evan Solomon, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics, he outlined additional requests: expanded loans, intelligence sharing and freer trade.
Seeks energy, intelligence assistance
Poroshenko also discussed the need for Ukraine to have energy independence.
"Canada could be one of the most important partners in this field," he told CBC News.
Poroshenko arrived in Canada late Tuesday night and was welcomed Wednesday morning on Parliament Hill with military honours before a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Poroshenko travels to Washington next for a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Thursday before addressing a joint session of Congress on Friday.
His visit to Canada comes one day after Ukraine signed a historic agreement to deepen its ties to the European Union.
"I know it's a very difficult time and we're greatly honoured that you're able to share this time with us on your visit to North America and to give us the opportunity to express our support for your government and for your country," Harper said during the leaders' photo-op.
Poroshenko said Canada is one of Ukraine's closest partners.
"We consider, following your words, that Canada is the most Ukrainian country outside Ukraine," he said.
"In this very difficult time, we count on your solidarity with us."
Help for Ukraine
Harper said in a news release announcing the visit that Canada's help to Ukraine includes:
- Deploying some non-combat troops from the Canadian army, navy and air force to join allies in Eastern Europe.
- Millions of dollars toward various projects.
- Military equipment.
- Sanctions against more than 180 Russian and Ukrainian individuals and entities.
Poroshenko and Harper also signed an agreement to follow through on a March commitment for Canada to provide a $200-million stabilization loan to Ukraine. Harper also announced an additional $3 million to go to medical attention, food, safe drinking water and more, "to help the estimated 3.9 million people living in areas affected by violence" and the nearly 200,000 people internally displaced by the conflict with pro-Russian rebels.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced additional sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, the day Poroshenko arrived in Ottawa.
Baird announced 300 Canadian election observers will be in Ukraine next month when Ukrainians head to the polls. Ukraine is holding a parliamentary election on Oct. 26, following Poroshenko's dissolution of the current assembly.
Harper met with Poroshenko last June after Poroshenko was sworn in as president. Both men attended the NATO summit in Wales earlier this month.