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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yushchenko Finds Friends in West

APYushchenko holding a pack of old Ukrainian banknotes presented by Kwasniewski.
KRAKOW, Poland -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, making his debut at a major international gathering, reaffirmed his pledge to move into the European mainstream and won a fresh, enthusiastic endorsement from the United States.

Yushchenko was the focus of attention at talks before ceremonies commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp by Soviet troops. The president, whose father was a prisoner in the camp, offered the outlines of a timetable for joining the European Union, made concessions on pulling troops out of Iraq and discussed energy projects.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney praised the Orange Revolution that helped propel Yushchenko to power. "President Yushchenko is an ally in freedom's cause, and President [George W.] Bush and the American people stand with him," Cheney, wearing an orange tie, told reporters after the two held talks late Wednesday. "What President Yushchenko has accomplished is remarkable and inspiring, and there are great tasks ahead."

Yushchenko told Cheney that the United States, Russia and the EU were "strategic partners."

Yushchenko has embarked on a rapid round of diplomacy across Europe this week. He made traditional ally Moscow his first port of call, then addressed the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly. He was to visit the European Parliament on Thursday morning, but the trip was cancelled due to heavy snowfall in Poland. As scheduled, he attended Auschwitz ceremonies later in the day and is to attend the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Friday. Bad weather delayed President Vladimir Putin's arrival in Krakow.

Addressing reporters in Krakow, Yushchenko said he hopes to start talks with the European Union within two years on associate membership.

"It seems to me that 'Old Europe' is altering its attitude toward Ukraine ... [and] I believe the process of integration requires movement from both sides, East to West and West to East," he said. "We believe the best possible scenario would be to start talks on EU associate membership by 2007."

The EU has sent mixed signals on future membership. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the bloc wanted closer ties but has no plans to extend membership. Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, however, told Finnish television that the EU could evaluate Ukraine's progress toward membership by 2007.

Yushchenko also met with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, a key figure in mediation to end election turmoil in Ukraine. A Polish statement said the two discussed "bilateral cooperation, Ukraine's pro-European foreign policy orientation and good neighborly relations across Eastern Europe."